Setting up the Boundaries: Ways to put up the fence!

Too many times, parents get caught up in an epic battle when the inevitable moment of “switching off” arrives. Children, deep into the inner world of their device, either react violently or simply ignore the request, much to the dismay of parents everywhere. So how is it that we set up our child’s technological use, to avoid such confrontations? Will it always be a losing battle? Let’s examine some potential strategies we can utilize to alleviate such potential tension.

Setting up the foundation and following through:

As mentioned in previous articles, setting up technological boundaries and routines early, is key to achieve future success. During the early years, a child is less likely to resist if “it has always been that way.” I take the example of my nephews as a reminder of this fact. Whilst playing with their Lego or pretending to be pirates, they will randomly ask if they can play on the Ipad. When my sister gently says no, they accept it and move on to their games, as that is how it has always been in their household. This brings me to my next point, about following through. As with all aspects of parenting (not just technology) the limit is indeed the limit. Following through, consistently on timeframes, routines and rejections to use the device, will allow the child to maintain a respect for the boundary. Thus, when it’s time to “switch off” there’s no need for a big fuss.

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Understanding what makes technology so addicting

In order to pry a child off their device, it’s important to understand what is making them so hooked in the first place. Whilst the cause of addiction might differ as a child grows up, it is important for parents to gain a foothold on the activities their child engages in when using technology.

Toddlers for example, might be drawn to the images that are tailored specifically for their developmental stage. The constant movement and change of images cause constant stimuli, which could inevitably keep them in front of the screen for long hours. For school aged children some games are specifically designed as a “collect them all challenge”, encouraging students to collect achievements or medals in order to beat the game.

With this knowledge, parents can determine the best strategy to set up a boundary, such as a “switch off” after the next achievement stipulation or providing alternate stimuli for a toddler such as a textured book or music. Understanding what draws children into technology can only help in setting up proper boundaries.

Evaluating our Language

“You have been on that too long!”

“When are You going to stop!!”

“You have been playing all day!”

While no parent can claim perfection, it has been too often that the child has been vilified for their excessive use of technology. By using “YOU” statements, we put the full responsibility on the child for their excessive use, but can they completely be at fault? This is where evaluating our language messages come into play. For example, when signaling that time is up, we could move our language to statements such as, “It’s 8 O’clock, it’s time to switch off,” or even “It’s 6 O’clock, time for dinner.” The emphasis here is that we are prompting our children to the next activity, rather than highlighting the negativity behind their excessive use.

Better yet, a post technology activity can involve interaction with you, the parent. Examples that come to mind are “Please switch off, it’s time for us to play soccer,” or “I’d love to see what you’ve achieved, show me and then we can get some sleep.” By adjusting our language, we can make technology use a positive experience, thereby alleviating the tension when setting up boundaries.

In our world today, it is becoming increasingly important for parents to take charge and set these all-important technological boundaries. Though it may seem like an ongoing and losing battle, the rewards far outweigh the temporary tantrums and resistance. Besides, as with all aspects of parenting, it is difficult, takes time and requires a lot of persistence. So it should be nothing new, right?

Vladimir Alonzo
Primary School Educator
Perth, Western Australia

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