Technology is a word that can bring fear to the heart of any parent. Kids seem to know so much and even some toddlers can use a tablet. There’s a wealth of information out there about how much time children should be spending in front of screens and the potential impact it has on their health.
It’s a topic that comes up regularly when I’m talking to parents and one that causes lots of discussion in the facebook group. Questions like how much time should be allowed and how to cope with the behavioural changes that can occur when our children are using tech?
I’m using the word technology for ease. Within it I’m encompassing gaming, watching YouTube and generally playing on tablets and iphones.
My son is a lover of gaming and would happily play all day every day if he could. I’m not a fan of gaming at all, I really don’t see the fun in it but listening to him laughing and chatting to his mates as he plays he clearly enjoys it.
When he started playing I was very strict about how much time he could play on it. I controlled it and made him come off. It caused a lot of issues, but I was positive I was doing the right thing. I’d read a lot about the negative impacts on child’s brain development if they played too much and was determined that wasn’t going to happen.
The changes in his behaviour when he was playing were also a bit of a worry and made me want to cut down his use even more. However, I don’t believe in stopping him doing something because it’s going to cause some challenging behaviour. I made the decision to help him learn how to cope with playing the games and develop is social skills as he was chatting to his mates.
I spent lots of time with him, helping him to manage playing games without the big meltdowns when he came off (not usually through his choice!), and that has paid off. He is now able to play and have fun chatting to his mates without issues, on the whole, and often just comes off without being asked. It’s not perfect, don’t get me wrong, but it’s a lot better than it was!
I recently read an article about how some children use gaming to help them cope with the chaos of the world they live in. It really resonated with me. I think a lot of children do. It’s a safe place for them, so they want to play it. This then clashes with what we as parents want and think about technology. We want to limit and reduce the amount of time they are on it, believing that they should be doing something else like playing outside and that too much time on it is bad for them. Without a doubt there is plenty of research showing they shouldn’t spend all day on it but if it is helping them to cope with the world then surely there must be a balance?
It’s a hard balance to find and I’m sure there will be plenty of people who think my son spends too much time on his xbox, but he has developed social skills that will transfer into other settings, he gets to spend lots of time playing with friends and he’s learnt about his emotions and how to handle them. For me, for now, those things outweigh the worries and we do lots of none screen things as well.