Many children have been plugged into electronic devices for a long time now, rarely looking up as they help virtual animals save the day, keep race cars on track and watch endless loops of videos on YouTube.
And that can be a concern, says Elaine Fogel Schneider, Ph.D., a therapist and author of 7 Strategies for Raising Calm, Inspired & Successful Children (www.askdrelaine.com).
“They are so attached to technology at such an early age and it’s changing their brain circuitry,” Schneider says. “They begin to lose the back and forth communication with their parents, and the whole notion of empathy. For really young children, these devices have become the babysitter. I fully understand that parents need a break, but there have to be limits.”
Schneider has tips for parents who worry about how they can control their child’s electronic pastime.
Limit the amount of time your child can spend on an electronic device and be consistent in enforcing those rules. This way your child knows that when you say he or she only has two minutes left, then there really is only two minutes left.
Use a timer
A timer does not “lie” and can take the blame away from you when you’re limiting your child’s time on the device. Use the timer that measures down the time your child is spending on the tablet, smartphone, and/or technological game so that your child knows the end for using that device is approaching, and it won’t be a surprise when time is up.
Be ready with another activity
Plan an alternative way of engaging your child so when the device is turned off, some other interest can be provided and take his or her mind off the electronic device. “Describe what you’re going to do so the child’s interest is piqued into doing something else that he or she enjoys,” Schneider says.
Use tips in your home at first
As with everything, at first there’s a learning curve, so there may be tantrums, tears, meltdowns and even depression. That’s why Schneider recommends following these tips at home first. “I wouldn’t think of trying this out in public right away since I don’t think you want to endure the wrath or glances of diners or shoppers as they hear your child scream,” Schneider says. In time, though, the child will know what is expected and will be able to disconnect from an electronic device without major meltdowns.