Are you worried that your little one spends too much time on their phone? Are you wondering whether it’s just a fascination or if it’s turning into something more serious? Research suggests that more than 25% of children of 6 and under already have a mobile phone! 50% of those kids spend up to 21 hours a week on their devices. Smartphones aren’t only the ultimate source of entertainment but are also slowly becoming the resolution to many daily tasks. They’re also playing a huge role in our children’s lives… What behaviours should catch our attention? When should we intervene?
How to tell if my child is addicted to their mobile phone?
Mobile phone addiction is becoming a widespread occurrence in both our own lives, and our children’s. Most prominent signs of early mobile phone addiction are when the little one refuses to put the phone down, often unable to go the day without their mobile. They feel the urge to pick up their phone no matter what the situation is and where they are. They create their own world within their phone and are often afraid that they might miss something, whether it’s a notification or a message. Hence, they’re often finding themselves checking their phone in class, at dinner, or even wake up late at night to see if anyone posted anything online.Other signs of mobile phone addiction are:
- Constantly needing to communicate with others using their phone.
- Panicking or mood change when they forget their phone or when it runs out of battery.
- Anger and upset when we’re trying to limit their screen time.
How to help the child to limit their screen time?
Here are some tips on how to lower your little one’s screen time!
Set the example – The truth is children often like to imitate our behaviours. This will probably be a tough one but if you’re noticing yourself spending too much time on your mobile, your child will most likely behave in a similar manner. Put your phone down, set a perfect example and watch the miracle happen!
Talk and explain – The most important step towards limited screen time is explaining why. Have a conversation with your kids and clarify the dangers of spending too much time on their phone.
Limit their time step by step – Don’t make any drastic changes, that can cause an upset in the little one, make sure you are limiting the time bit by bit, so they get a good chance to get used to the changes.
Set a reward system – We all know how hard it is to put our phone down once we’re sucked into the world of social media – it’s hard to snap out of it! It’s the same for our children, in fact children find it even tougher to change their habits. If you see that they are making progress, make sure you reward them for their little victories.
(We created a printable reward chart which you can download at the bottom of the page!)
Phone-free zones – Set phone-free zones in the house e.g. no phones at the dinner table or bathrooms.
No sleeping with their phone next to the bed – This will prevent the little one from going on their phone late at night or the urge to check it If they wake up during the night.
Observe your child’s behaviour – Mobile phones aren’t always a bad thing… they can be used to express creativity, play brain teasing games and learning. However, It’s important to know what the little one uses their mobile phone for, therefore you should keep an eye on their activities (be careful not to be too intruding as it can have a negative effect on their trust towards you).
We recommend downloading parenting apps like Qustodio or iHound. Qustodio allows you to set a limit on daily mobile usage, block harmful websites and content and send you reports of their usage. IHound is a great GPS app which alerts you when they leave a set location, great for knowing when they leave school or afterschool activities.
Keep them occupied with other activities – In most cases kids tend to reach for their phones when they’re bored. Make sure they have other activities to engage in like art supplies, board games or toys.
Spend time with them – Make sure you are investing any free time to be with them. Pick up a toy truck or a doll and enter their word! These moments are also the best time to encourage a healthy and honest conversation.
Seek help – If you see that this problem is getting out of hand and none of the above tips work, it might be useful to get some outside help from your family GP.
Limiting screen time can be extremely hard and it’s a common thing in children so don’t worry! You are not alone!