Tips for Parents to manage technology use at home:

1. Be the best role model you can be:

Switch off the mobile when your child is present, don’t be distracted by emails or news feeds. Demonstrate that there is a time for technology but there are also times when you can disconnect too.

2. Don’t banish technology:

We need to teach our children how to use technology in moderation. Remember the issue is not a case of bad technology, its bad usage. We need to teach children how to develop a healthy relationship with technology, where it is not seen as a mystery but more as a tool to complement their lives, not supplement their communications.

3. Remove the threat of removal:

Tell your child that no matter what they see or come across on the internet that they can tell you about it and it won’t automatically mean that you will remove their online access as a result. Most children don’t let their parents know if they see something unsavoury online for fear that their devices and access will be removed. Face this fear head on and address it with your child explaining that whatever happens, you will work it out together.

4. When…then:

Use rules which stipulate when you have completed your homework/tidied your room, or spent some time in face to face conversation; then you can have access to your technology… like with ice cream and treats, only after the nutritious foods have been eaten. Remember, everything in moderation. You must set the limits and teach your child how much is enough when it comes to technology.

5. Agree acceptable limitations and stick to them:

Once the limits are set, stick to them. Your child may be frustrated but stand by the rules. Be strong in the face of ‘pester power’. Just because everyone else in 5th class has that over 18’s computer game is not a reason to give in. The age restrictions are there for a reason, pay heed to them.

6. Respect your child’s maturity:

As your child grows older you should be able to see them develop a healthier relationship with technology. This is apparent when they can turn off technology without any drama and move onto the next activity. Perhaps the child who struggles to hand back their devices may need some extra support to develop healthier relationships with technology.

7. Offer alternatives:

Spend time with your child and offer alternatives to screen time in terms of conversation and activities. Remember boredom is an important developmental task to overcome in childhood and is not something that needs to be avoided at all costs. Children’s ability to manage boredom encourages skills of being able to tolerate frustration, negotiate adversity and entertain themselves.

8. Remember there is no app for lap:

There are plenty of new technology advances but none of them can come close to the real life relationships that are important in all of our lives. Nothing beats sitting with your child yourself and reading them a story or giving them words of encouragement yourself. Remember to disconnect and connect. The work starts now!

Dr Colman Noctor, Child & Adolescent Psychotherapist with St Patrick’s Mental Health Services

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