Through his Altrincham-based company Behaviour Reasoning, Simon Birch supports local children and their families who may be struggling to cope.
Here he writes about how parents can control one of the banes of modern life - screen time.
As a child I used to sneak a pocket radio under my pillow to listen to Radio Luxembourg.
The world has moved on and the advance of mobile phones and electrics causes great angst.
In the last week I have dealt with parents who face a barrage of abuse when asking their foundlings to come off their games or phones, children unable to function in school as they have not slept but been on their phone all night and one child who had given his password to a man in Nigeria with the result that awful messages were scattered to his contacts.
So, what advice would I have for parents? Here are a few tips.
- Manage your own expectations: we might not be fans, but these games and apps are at the core of the child’s life.
- Talk to your children about the dangers of addiction.
- Discourage games with access to non-age-appropriate communities, bad language or overt violence until mature enough.
- Monitor their phones where appropriate.
- Timetable allowance on electrics
- Press the importance of sleep.
- There are apps you will automatically switch off your child’s device or your wi-fi access.
- I prefer making agreements with the youngsters. If they play a particular game, be it Fortnite or whatever, ask how long a game can last. If it is 20 minutes, explain you will give them a 20-minute warning when it is time to shut down. The youngster then must decide whether to finish the game they are on (knowing they will not have time for another full game) or start a new game. This teaches the youngsters to self-regulate and start to have a sense of time and control over the end point.
- Use a sand timer to show the 20 minutes as they again start to monitor time and it takes away the sense of being got at by the parent while also prompting their comprehension of time.
- Do not get into an argument or a debate with the youngsters, just instruct them. If you are desperate for the last word, just say ‘we will talk about this when you are reasonable’.
- If the youngster is aggressive do not get involved or attempt to communicate as they cannot reason when angered. Just walk away. If they remain on the electronics after this type of incident be pleased you minimised the problem and then speak later to the youngster, reflecting on their aggression and stating you are the adult and your job as a parent is to care and protect, therefore you are removing the electronics while they are causing harm, and we will try again in a few days.
Every child and young person is individual and requires tailored intervention depending on their maturity, acumen, self-regulation abilities, strength of relationship and empathy.
Be consistent and act like you as the adults are calm and in control, even if not feeling so.
Good luck and if in doubt give me a shout!