Unplugging the children

Between the iPad, X-box, TV and computer, it can be hard to spend real quality time with your kids.

While the jury is still out over the long-term impact of computer games and excessive screen time, the evidence seems to be mounting that too much time playing online may have a negative effect on a child’s brain development and attention span. Not to mention family life.

So here are five ways to help your kids unplug:

Make them earn it.

If you think it’s unrealistic to keep your kids offline all the time, set some rules around how long they can use their devices. Make them earn minutes – say one minute for every minute spent playing outside. Or two minutes for every minute they spend helping out with jobs around the house.

Provide fun alternatives.

It’s all well and good to take away devices – but kids need to be entertained. While every parent loves to tell a child to use their imagination, having some fun suggestions at hand can help make the transition away from screens more enjoyable.

Have a Lego or drawing competition: best spaceship, house or monster gets a prize. Charades or even a simple treasure hunt in the house and garden can also be fun. Or, if they enjoy cooking, get them involved in making pizzas for lunch or baking cupcakes for afternoon tea

Get away from it all.

During school holidays or on a weekend, camping can be the ideal no-tech getaway, but you don’t need to be roughing it to change your kids’ routine.

Choose holiday accommodation without internet (or pretend not to know the WiFi password). Or simply leave all devices at home. Again, it’s important to have alternatives to stop the boredom setting in: books, bikes, toys, puzzles, pencils and paper – or just a pack of cards.

Set an example.      

We all know that children generally won’t play along if they think that something isn’t fair. So it’s time to practise what you preach. Put aside your phone, shut down the iPad and keep the TV off. Not only will you help to keep the peace, you might find it’s good for you too!

Join in.

When all else fails – maybe on a rainy afternoon – join in on screen time. Ask your kids to show you their latest Minecraft creation, or how to play their favourite game. They’ll probably get a laugh out of it, and you’ll have a much better idea of why they love their technology so much.  In addition you’ll be spending valuable time together.