LAST week, I was invited to moderate a parenting session with a group of young parents. The topic of the discussion was how to connect with their device-obsessed children. All the parents who came had one thing in common – they were worried about their kids who seemed to be addicted to their devices.

I’m sure this is an issue that affects us all. We’re living in the age of technology and it’s now impossible to escape the digital world.

From banking, shopping, travelling and even news-reading, everything is done via our gadgets. It’s little wonder then that our kids are glued to the screen more than ever.

However, we still need to balance the usage so we don’t end up crossing the addiction line. Before we blame the younger generation, let’s look at ourselves to see if there are things that we can do better to combat this problem.

Most of the time, it’s the parents who introduce the gadgets to their children prematurely. Scientists generally agree that no digital device should be given to children below the age of four, and definitely not to the under-twos.

At this tender age, their brains are undergoing rapid growth. Gadget usage, especially the uncontrolled and prolonged one, will disturb that growth.

CONTROLLING THE SITUATION

Some effects include disorders such as speech delay, social withdrawal, poor eye sight and of course, addiction. I’ve seen cases where children have thrown major tantrums when they didn’t get their gadgets.

They use various tactics such as whining, crying and even screaming and yelling in public.

In those cases, I’ve witnessed how parents end up giving in to their children’s demands. I’m sorry to say that such parents are unknowingly becoming the victims of bullying by their own children.

So, how do we control the situation before it gets out of control or even destructive? During the session, we came out with several practical solutions. When it comes to digital devices, it’s the parents’ responsibility to ensure that proper control is in place.

It’s crucial for parents to be aware of what the children are doing and with whom they’re communicating when using this technology. Set an agreement whereby parents deserve the right to check the children’s gadgets without notice.

Run unannounced inspections from time to time. Moreover, take note of their emotional state. If you notice some unusual behavioural changes or they seem to lose focus, there may be issues bothering them.

Another way is to introduce an “electronic-free” period for an hour or two daily. A good time to do so is in the early evening. Enjoy this time with your family without electronic disruption.

Turn off all devices like mobile phones and even the Internet modem. Spend time the “analogue” way by interacting and joking with the family while enjoying dinner together.

The list is endless. There are many ways to make family time fun. When activities are ongoing, the family bond will strengthen and at the same time, we reduce the unnecessary dependence on gadgets. Instead, we’re creating a healthy balance between the children’s digital needs and basic values of family living.

Zaid Mohamad coaches and trains parents to experience happier homes and more productive workplaces. Reach him at [email protected].

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