How to wean your child off technology

by Lauren Abbott

Love it or hate it, one thing's for sure - technology plays a huge part in modern family life.

And for some of the 'digital generation' spending time without a gadget is almost unthinkable.

Indeed, recent research by Eon found one in five parents say their children couldn't go more than two hours without technology, and more than a third of mums and dads (37%) think gadgets have the biggest impact on the amount of time they spend together as a family.

Digital natives start young

It could all be a nail in the coffin of family life but author Liat Hughes Joshi has other ideas.

Her new book How To Unplug Your Child: 101 Ways To Help Your Kids Turn Off Their Gadgets And Enjoy Real Life aims to make useful activity suggestions for toddlers through to teenagers and to help families find something to do that doesn’t involve screen time.

The mother-of-one explained: "Technology is thoroughly ingrained in all our lives, and our children are no exception.

“But sometimes it can all get too much. Sometimes, wouldn't you appreciate a little downtime from the technological torrent that eats into our offline relationships? To actually talk to each other and do things together that don't involve texting and messaging, tapping and swiping?"

Gadget addict

The idea, says Liat, is to remind children that they don't have to be staring at a screen to have fun while helping parents to appreciate they don’t have to transform themselves into Butlin's Red Coats to provide alternative entertainment.

For that reason most of her ideas are free and need minimal equipment or none at all.

Suggestions include setting up a family murder mystery game, turning the power off for the night and using torches and candles to play cards and board games, creating a life-size self-portrait, and performing random acts of kindness such as inviting a child round who struggles to make friends.

Accepting that screen time will exist, she recommends screen rules to manage the time such as no technology at the dinner table or when there are visitors in the house.

And she urges parents to lead by example and put their own smartphones or screens down when necessary too.

"There's nothing wrong with giving them a screen sometimes - that's totally fine. We all need time to have a cup of tea and a sit down. But it's when it takes the place of interaction with other people too much that it's a worry," she warns.

"I don't want to demonise technology. It's about trying to get children to understand the downsides, showing them gently and quietly that there's more to life than a screen: screens are part of life, but when they start to become life itself, maybe there's a problem.”

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