When we confiscate our children’s devices from them as punishment, we’re actually doing more harm than good in the long term.
“No more screen time until you behave!”
We’ve probably reprimanded our kids with a similar line before when we noticed them kicking and screaming for more screen time. For some of us, it could have been as recent as this morning. It’s a common line we say to our children when they’re misbehaving. After all, one of the tried-and-tested ways to pacify our children is rewarding them with a little screen time.
But as we continue to navigate the milieu of the parenting world, we need to learn and unlearn some of the habits that we’ve grown so accustomed to – especially with regards to screen time, a foreign concept during our childhoods, but ever so prevalent in our children’s.
According to a study done by the University of Guleph, it was found that when parents withdraw screen time as a form of punishment, their children ironically end up spending more time on screens. This is because kids become conditioned to think that screens are a valuable “prize” that they end up craving for it more. It’s like when the dentist told us when we were kids to stop eating candy because it’s bad for our teeth, the more we yearned for candy as a sweet treat.
Similarly, when we choose to punish or reward our children with screen time, we’re over-inflating the value of the screens and making it into a big deal, when it really shouldn’t be.
What can we do to prevent this?
So what happens if your children throw a tantrum or starts to act out because you’ve limited their screen time? Instead of asking them to behave in exchange for more screen time, gently explain to them the reasons behind those screen time limitations. Let them know that you’re worried about the amount of time they’re spending on the screen. In fact, too much screen time has been linked to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, and can also result in device dependency.
If your child still insists on screen time, consider downloading parental control apps like plano. Plano helps to monitor your child’s device use and reminds your child to take regular breaks from the screens every 30 minutes. As a parent, you can also use the plano app to schedule no-device times. For instance, if your child is not allowed to use his/her phone during dinner time, you can use the plano app to lock his/her device during those hours.
Of course, before you download any form of parental controls in your child’s device, be sure to inform them about it first. This is to ensure a clear line of communication between you and your child, and to avoid any misunderstandings. Kindly let your child know that you’re downloading a parental control app to help keep track of the time he/she is spending on his/her devices. In no way are you trying to infringe on to his/her privacy, but it’s a matter of just making sure he/she isn’t spending an exorbitant amount of time on screens alone. After all, there’s so much more to do than spend entire days staring at a screen.
If you’re wondering how much screen time your child should be afforded, you may follow the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) guidelines on screen time:
- 0-2 years old: no screen time at all
- 2-4 years old: 1 hour
The next time you’re tempted to revoke screen time from your child as a form of child, pause. Pause and think about how this might unconsciously cause them to crave for more screen time. Instead, have an honest, calm and open conversation about screen time and help them manage it responsibly.