Hi, my name is Teacher Kean from Teaching Worthy. I’m a licensed headmaster with the Ministry of Education and a certified HRDF trainer. My job is to help parents become better parents.
Recently I was invited to participate in a roundtable discussion on everyone’s favourite topic – how do I get my kids off their electronic devices? I think this is a serious issue – most of the queries I get are parents seeking help on this very topic.
Here are some insights BASED ON SCIENCE which should help your child kick their electronic obsessions:
WE GOTTA LEAD BY EXAMPLE
This may come as a shock to some of us but, parents are the biggest influence in their kids’ lives. That’s why it’s super unconvincing when we ask our kids to get off their devices, when WE are on Facebook, Netflix or Fortnite for the entire evening.
Hey! Don’t get me wrong. If you’re a couch potato, you get ZERO judgement from me. Modern parents are stressed and overworked. We all need our own ME-TIME.
Nonetheless, the science cannot be denied. For example, studies show that parents with a habit of reading also tend to have children who prefer reading.
So if you’re really serious about getting your kids off their devices, the first step is to set aside some time every day for the whole family to read or to exercise. To be clear, you don’t need to be reading the same books with them or even exercising with them. You just need to show them that there are other more fulfilling forms of entertainment besides electronic devices.
Your own Facebook or gaming time should be reserved for after the kids go to bed.
DEVICES SHOULD BE A REWARD, NOT A BABYSITTER
Alright I know I’m definitely guilty of this one. There are certainly times in our lives where we’re so busy with work that we tend to rely on electronic devices as a babysitter for our kids. Sometimes you just have to keep your kids occupied while you deal with the stresses of life. I GET IT.
Here’s the thing though. I’m not suggesting that you cut out electronic devices entirely from your kids’ lives. Why? Because electronic devices are definitely a useful tool in our parenting arsenal. They can be used as a reward to reinforce your kids’ good behaviour, and taking them away can be a powerful and scary punishment when they’re naughty.
Hearing this, many parents tell me: “Teacher Kean, if I don’t use the device as a babysitter, my kids will complain and whine and moan and cry.” So here’s the painful truth: the real reason why many parents give in to their kids and hand them that device is because WE FEEL GUILTY FOR LEAVING OUR KIDS UNATTENDED AND BORED.
Here’s a little secret: It is actually quite important for your kids to learn how to be bored. Let me say that in a different way: It is VITAL for your kids to find ways to make themselves happy or to amuse themselves when they are alone.
If we don’t allow our kids to be bored, by giving them the device whenever they complain, HOW WILL THEY LEARN PATIENCE? How will they explore different hobbies and DISCOVER WHAT THEY LOVE DOING? How will they learn to be at peace being alone with their thoughts?
So, put that silly notion out of your head. With a bit of positive guidance, it’s perfectly acceptable for kids to be unoccupied or to be bored. In the beginning, it may be tough, but they’re kids. They’ll soon find productive hobbies to do if you give them the correct encouragement.
KIDS NEED GOALS TO KICK ADDICTION IN THE LONG TERM
So far, the things I’ve taught you are immediate and practical steps you should take. In reality, dealing with addiction in the long term is a BIITT more complicated.
Clinical psychologists mostly agree that the correct way to deal with addiction is to replace the addiction with a vision of a better future. For example, for adults, a highly effective way to think about it is like this: “If I didn’t spend so much time or money gambling, what CAN my life look like? Wouldn’t my life be better if I spent that time and money developing a new business instead?”
Many kids get hooked onto electronic devices precisely because they don’t have goals. It’s quite serious. Most kids I speak to don’t even know what they want to be when they grow up and they don’t even know what they LIKE TO DO.
So we have to help our children develop goals and dreams, and to show them the steps they need to take to achieve them. Help them understand the benefits of living a healthy and productive life by giving them examples of successful and happy people.
Show them that their time can be better spent improving themselves and in picking up new skills. Above all, remind them constantly that all this growth and expansion is for their own benefit (and not to make us happy).
Alright, obviously electronic device addiction is indeed a serious issue. It took me a long time to realise what works on kids and what doesn’t. If you need more practical steps or if you require specific advice, please do not hesitate to contact us at www.teachingworthy.com. Thank you, and please remember to share these lessons which are worth sharing.