Article by boka
1st March 2018
How to get your kids away from the screen and playing outside
Phones, TVs, tablets – they’re the blessing and the curse of the 21st Century. So how do you get your kids to take a break from the screen. Journalist and mother of four Rosie Millard shares her secrets…
Here’s the thing. It’s not about the children. It’s about you.
You know those pictures of small birds in the nest, beaks wide open, shouting for food when their parents arrive? Well, that is how your children are when you are in the vicinity. Only they are not hungry for food (well, not always). What they are hungry for is your attention.
Of course, I too have sat at the kitchen table, looked at every one of my four children hooked onto a tiny screen, and shouted at them, but to be honest, when I suggest we all play a game, they put their phones away immediately.
I don’t believe in screen banning (although in a fit of frustration I did once take a Nintendo DX to the local branch of Cancer Research and hurl it in the direction of a startled assistant), because I think banning devices only increases their allure.
What might be a better plan is to divide up time between screen and non-screen. Yours and theirs. There is no point wailing on about how much time your children are spending online if you are also glued to your phone (I am a culprit here).
So take your children out, but make sure you turn your phone off when you do. Take them to a gallery, or a swimming pool. And if you have a local pool, why not enrol them in the swim squad? This brings the advantage of social engagement. If they have friends doing sport, they are far more likely to join in. My children do lots of sport, not because they are en route to the Olympics; it’s more because they have struck up friendships.
Then when they come home after spending lots of non-screen time, you can relax a bit about the endless conversations on Snapchat or equivalent. Plus, it will give you time to catch up with your emails.
The other way to get your kids off the screen is to take them out of the car. It’s quite difficult to text while walking. It’s much easier to chat. So walk to school, or walk to the shops with your children, rather than driving them, and just see how rarely they reach for a screen. It works.
Screens and the internet are here to stay and affect every part of family life; our job as parents is not to stop the future, but to learn how to co-exist amicably with it. Now, where’s that charger?
Rosie Millard is a journalist and mother of four teenage children. Well, the youngest is 12. Two girls, two boys, they are all still pretty fussy in their food choices but she is undeterred in her mission to get them to eventually appreciate avocado. Or, actually, anything green.
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