22 Sep Why Positive Digital Habits for Kids Starts with Mindful Parenting
When you ask your teen to put their phone away at the dinner table, how do they react? Negatively? And how about younger kids? Are tantrums often involved when they’re told their tablet time is up?
If you’re concerned about how much time your children spend on screens, or are worried about how dependent they could become on their devices as they grow older, it’s time to do something about it. Rather than just asking your kids to follow healthier habits with their screens, you need to show them that you, too, take digital detox seriously. Expecting your children to log off but maintaining your negative screen habits is a paradox and something kids will cotton onto immediately. Instead, we believe that positive digital habits for children start with mindful parenting and leading by example.
Mindful Parenting and The Age of Imitation
At around one years of age, children begin to imitate what they see – an important step towards independence. In an article for Parents Magazine, Dr. Kessler, director of developmental and behavioural pediatrics at the Children’s Health Centre of St. Joseph’s Hospital, in Phoenix, offers, “as they copy the deeds of adults, toddlers realize, Wow! I can do this! Aren’t I great? I’ll try it again.” This means that parents of toddlers are under constant observation and have the opportunity to shape positive lifestyle habits. Make an effort to avoid using your smartphone around your toddler and younger kids when it’s not necessary.
Mindful Parenting and The Turbulent Teenage Years
Of course, it’s always easier to implement healthy habits and values from a young age, but this is not always possible and new challenges can arise during the turbulence of teenagehood. Recently, research around the need to address teen tech time and the impact screen overuse can have on mental health has been growing. For example, in a survey commissioned by Digital Awareness UK, 52% of school-age students have said that social media made them feel less confident about how interesting their life was and how attractive they felt. The virtual world also promotes a continuation of playground bullying, where bullies can act more anonymously, hiding behind their screens. According to the i-SAFE foundation, 1 in 3 have experienced cyberthreats online, but over half of young people surveyed do not tell their parents when such cyberbullying occurs.
These statistics are just a few examples of many that highlight the need to showcase positive digital habits to our teens. Today’s digital culture is eroding our ability to just ‘be’. To let our minds wander and to face difficult emotions. Instead, we have learnt to equate moments of quiet with boredom that must be filled. We push down the thoughts and difficult conversations and turn to our digital devices for distraction.
In MIT researcher Sherry Turkle’s book, Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age, she confirms that, “If we don’t have experience with solitude – and this is often the case today – we start to equate loneliness and solitude. This reflects the impoverishment of our experience. If we don’t know the satisfactions of solitude, we only know the panic of loneliness.” In this sense, during the teenage years, it’s important that we use mindful parenting to in turn model a mindful relationship with technology. Create limits on tech time, especially during important family bonding and conversation moments, such as the dinner table. Treat teenagers with integrity and explain to them how technology can affect us. Be a role model when it comes to engaging in tech-free, creative and outdoors or exercise driven activities.
Not just in looks, children are the product of their parents in personality and habits. By leading by example and being mindful of our own tech time, we have the opportunity to share with our children how to enjoy the incredible benefits of the online world, without screentime become damaging to their wellbeing and development.
For practical and positive ways to develop a mindful use of screens at home, Stop Staring at Screens by Tanya Goodin (ILEX, £9.99) is out now.
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