Digital detox for kids

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The latest buzzword in tackling tech obsession in children, we look at the whys and how-tos of logging out and hitting refresh on their device use.

Aussie’s collectively check their phones 560 million times a day

Screens and devices are an ever-increasing part of modern life – including our children’s. From homework to streaming TV, gaming, learning through edu-apps, to staying in touch with families and friends, technological advances have provided many benefits.

According to a 2017 study by Deloitte, Australians are leading the charge when it comes to smartphone use:
• 88% are proud owners of a device
• 35% check their phones within 5 minutes of waking
• 70% use phones during mealtimes with family and friends
• Phones were checked 80 million times more often than they were the previous year. Collectively this amounts to 560 million times per day, or individually, more than 35 times a day on average

It’s all about balance

The Office of the e-Safety Commissioner notes tech time can enhance learning experiences, creativity, social interaction, entertainment, support in literacy and numeracy skills and improvement in motor skills.

Digital detox for kids

The flip-side is, if mismanaged, tech use can negatively impact our mental and physical health; including bad backs, short attention spans, declining grades through lack of time and attention on schoolwork, sleeping issues and lack of face to face socialising.

This means it’s important to encourage your children to strike a balance between tech time and getting in enough social activities, academic work, exercise and rest.
For parents with especially dedicated device users, this can mean making a big break and taking a total time out with a complete digital detox.

That said, you are likely to meet less resistance if you start small – say “No Tech Tuesdays” that happen over a month or cutting back to an hour a day for ten days.

How much tech time is too much for kids?

While this will vary from family to family the Department of Health lists the following recommendations around daily device use (excluding screen time for educational purposes):

• Under 2 years - Babies and toddlers should not watch any television or other electronic media (DVDs, computers and electronic games)
• 2 to 5 years - Less than one hour per day. Limit their time sitting and watching TV or using other electronic media to less than one hour per day
• 5 to 17 years - Less than two hours per day. Limit their use of electronic media for entertainment (i.e. TV, computers and seated electronic games) to no more than two hours per day

Digital detox for kids

Another way to work out if they are spending too much time online is to look out for signs it’s creating a negative impact on their life. The Office of the eSafety Commissioner website lists the following warning signs:

• Online activities interfering with general health and wellbeing
• Obsession with particular websites or games
• Anger when being asked to take a break from online activity
• Appearing anxious or irritable when away from the computer
• Spending increasing amounts of time online
• A declined interest in social activities like meeting friends or playing sport
• Excessive tiredness
• Decline in academic performance and failing to complete schoolwork
• Seemingly isolated or withdrawn
• Reduced personal hygiene
• Negative changes in their behaviour
• Ongoing headaches, eye strain and sleep disturbance

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