Written by: Shani Fowler
There can be no denying technology is here to stay and likely to become more and more engrained in our culture as time goes on, but there can be too much of a good thing can’t there? Especially where the kids are concerned – they can become so engrossed in their computers that it becomes difficult to get them to engage and focus on anything else – we really do need to limit the time they spend on computers but that’s easier said than done! There are some ways to get around it, let’s see if we can tear them away from their computers with as little pain as possible!
Assess the time
Differing ages each require varying amounts of time. For example, infants really need no more than 10 to 15 minutes computer time a day. Then at the top end of the scale, high school children would need substantially more, requiring up to as much as two hours per day, possibly more on occasions, as they may be using it for school homework and lessons.
Knowing where they stand
To make limiting computer use easier, it is best if everyone knows exactly where they stand. Let children know in advance how much time they are allowed but ensure that it is reasonable for what they intend to do on the computer. Activity based time will allow them to start and finish what they want to do without the stress of worrying they won’t get to complete something; or the frustration of having the lid closed on their laptop just as they were getting to something crucial.
Earning extra time
Earning extra time as a reward for good behaviour for school work, can be a really good way of encouraging children, it can help teach them the value of earning rewards for good behaviour and valuing time on their computers. Also you can allow them to swap time on the computer, perhaps miss a day or two so they can have longer another day, which can enable them to do something they really want to do – even if it is to play games.
Technology for the technology
Technology may be to blame for the incessant use of the computer but it can also work in our favour. If you can’t beat it, join it – by using software to check how much time has been used on the computer. Window Vista allows you to set when a child can use the computer through the parental controls, using the user profiles. There are also hardware based timers where a manual shut off to the monitor will occur once the time is up, this is best used though as a last resort (if other methods have failed).
Have the computer in an open space as opposed to a child’s bedroom, this in itself can limit the time they will want to use it and it makes it easier to monitor the usage (and see what they are doing).
An alarm clock or phone alarm can be set that reminds your child it’s time to finish off what they are doing, or an alarm that they can see ticking down so they know how long they have left enabling them to prioritise what they want to do.
It doesn’t have to be all serious, you can keep it fun by sending them an upbeat text or funny instant message telling them that their time is almost up! And if there is a case of sibling rivalry over who’s turn it is, or who has been on it longest – use a good old fashioned chart maybe with fun stickers that shows everyone who gets what, when they get it and exactly how long they have.
Also remember that nothing works quite as well as an incentive. If the kids know that there is something as good or better to do once they come off the computer, they will be more inclined to want to spend less time on it. Try and think of family activities as an alternative or encourage time with friends or other social groups.
Used in moderation, a computer can enhance a child’s life and their technological skills, but over use can certainly be to their detriment. As well as controlling what they are allowed to access by computer, setting time limitations is important and making sure that they understand them fully is imperative; as is understanding that if they don’t abide by the time limit rules it means they don’t get any time at all!