Summer is here, and it is time for many children to binge 12-16 hours a day in electronics. Between television, gaming systems, tablets, and computers, children will be spending much of their time with electronics. In today’s digital world, there are few alternatives to electronics. What are parents to do, if they do not want their children addicted to electrics? In truth, electronics, and the Internet can be addictive, with millions of children already addicted in the US and worldwide. As a former Internet addict, I understand just how tempting and demanding the Internet can be. Below is a list of actions parents can take to help reduce their screen time and help to prevent an addiction from forming.
1. Take Control of Your Electronics
As a parent, you need to remember all electronics in the house are yours. Your child’s phone, tablet, XBox are yours, not his. You bought them, and you are responsible for them. Your first task is to take them over. You need to have access to all these devices, so you know what your child is doing on them. Your child may protect and become upset at this, but you are responsible for their health and safety, and the Internet can be a very unsafe place.
Go through each of your child’s devices to see what is installed. Some apps are not safe and are dangerous. Snapchat, for example, allows naked photos to be uploaded which are deleted within a short time. While many use Snapchat for news and information, the danger for kids is too high. Make sure to eliminate dangerous apps and make sure you are the only one who can install then. Installing system monitoring software, such as Norton Family can help you monitor your child’s devices. If you are not in control of your child’s devices, someone else could be.
2. Password Protect your Internet Connection & Set Timers
As with electronics, parents are in control of their Internet access. If you are paying the bill, you are in control. Most internet providers come with a router or modem which you can access. You need to secure your connection, so you can control who has access. While this can be a technical task, you should be able to be able to change the password needed to access the Internet. You want control of this password as if your child misbehaves or cannot control his electronics usage; then you may need to disable the Internet. Contact your Internet service provider and ask how you can access your router or modem. You should have the right to access and control it, as you are paying the bill.
The goal is to be able to control when the Internet is on and off. Many children who are addicted to the Internet will forgo sleep to be online. To eliminate this, turning off the Internet at night is a good solution. As many kids will sneak electronics, if there is no Internet to connect to, they cannot have access. A good time for the Internet to be disconnected is 9:00 PM. The problem with this method is the Internet will be off for parents as well.
If you have a router with multiple networks, you can bypass this limitation. One network can be for the kids, and the other can be for parents. You can set timers on the network for the kids, leaving the network for the parents untouched. Password protect both networks and never give out the password for the parent’s network. Make sure to use complex passwords that cannot be guessed, as your kids may spend hours trying to crack the password. Do not underestimate your child; they may learn how to hack into systems if desperate enough for Internet access.
3. Structure your Child’s Day
If you do not have set activities for your child, they will spend their day in electronics. While this may be tempting, overall it can lead to addiction. A good structure of activities will help reduce their screen time. If your children are old enough to do some chores, include them. Children should work in the summer as they need to learn life is not free and everyone has responsibilities. Have your child help you in chores or other activities on a daily basis.
Scheduling activities away from home is another good way of spending time with them. Going to a park or a public library once a week is a good idea. Try to create a weekly schedule with events set on specific days, and share this schedule with your child. Let them at times pick the activities, so they feel like they are part of the process. Some days can consist of mostly electronics, but let these days be the exception rather than the rule. Remind your child the day before each activity, so they are prepared. While at first there may be some protesting due to limited screen time, by the time the summer is over this will be more of a routine. Make sure on weekends to involve the whole family so that everyone can spend time with each other.
4. Continuing Education
Even though school is over, learning should continue. Reading books is an excellent method to accomplish this. Some of the books chosen can be ones required for school, or that will help with learning. Most, however, should be books your children want to read. Reading is a lost art that our children cannot afford to lose. All children need to be reading, not only to improve their vocabulary skills but to have an interest in the medium. This is why your public library is important. Take your child at least twice a month and have them pick out books they want to read. If they do not pick out a book, research ones popular with their age group and check them out. Always be aware of what your child is reading, and read these books yourself. This way you can have conversations with your child and can have a dialogue.
Taking your child to museums and other public works is another great way to continue their education. Natural history museums and science-related museums are great to get children interested in learning. Include these events in your weekly schedules. Many museums have summer rate programs where you can get good deals on family packages. Use the summer to take advantage of these deals.
5. Monitor Your Own Electronic Usage
As a parent, it is important for your child to see you as someone who means what they say. Respect is earned, and your child needs to respect you and the words you say. If your child sees you getting on them for things, while you do these same things, they will lose respect and may become defiant. If you are yelling at your child to limit their electronics usage, while you do not, they will ignore what you say.
This summer, work to limit your electronic usage as well. This will be just as difficult as it is for your child, as many adults are addicted to electronics. If there is a time of the day your child is not on electronics, you need to follow this same rule. As a parent, you should have access to electronics at all times, but you should be able to control your usage. If you find you cannot control your electronics usage, then you need to admit to having a problem and taking steps to combat it.
This means limiting the times you take out your phone to check status updates. This means limiting the time you spend on social media. Your child is watching, and if they see you may be addicted, they will feel justified in their addiction. As a therapist who treats Internet Addiction, I have found many parents are addicted to the Internet. It is possible the child modeled the addiction from the parent. The family as a unit needs to limit their screen time. This does not mean you or your child should avoid using the Internet. It means you need to limit your usage.
Summer is a time for families to come together. With school being over, it is time for kids to explore and do new things. Spending the summer glued to a screen teaches little and reinforces addiction. Spend time with your child and plan activities. Limit the screen time of everyone in the home and instead spend time together experiencing new activities. Take control of the electronics in your home and make sure they are safe. Make this summer the best summer ever, and spend it learning with your child.
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