We know from both our own research and that of others that children are spending more and more time on devices, with many actually owning their own. It is unsurprising that children have become increasingly dependent on devices and technology, as they are now present and necessary in many aspects of their daily lives. Examples of this include the fact that coding became a subject in British schools last year, and children are now able to watch shows and films anywhere (not restricted to within their homes) thanks to tablets and smartphones. However, although the use of technology has many benefits in children’s lives, like that of preparing them for the digitally driven world, and being a source of entertainment, some parents are finding it hard to tear their children away from a screen. According to research completed by Action for Children, 23% of parents are struggling to control their children’s activities on phones, tablets, laptops and/or TVs, finding it easier to make them eat healthily (19%), go to bed (18%), and do their homework (10%). Action for Children are calling for parents to try and ‘unplug’ their children from devices in order to encourage family time: ‘We know from our extensive work with families that strong relationships with parents build resilience in children, making them less susceptible to bullying or abuse outside the home, and encouraging them to speak to their parents about any fears or concerns.’ In order to help parents Action for Children have developed 5 tips to get children to press the off button:
  1. Plan activities that do not involve any technology use.
  2. Create a weekly schedule that allows an hour of tech free time for every hour where technology can be used.
  3. Share and play your favourite childhood games.
  4. Replicate things that they like doing when connected into real time, e.g. encourage them to play a sport if they like playing sport games on their device.
  5. Share your children’s screen-free time; don’t be on your device when they aren’t.
From research that we have completed at Giraffe Insights around the use of tablets and other devices amongst children, we have found that they are regularly used to convenience parents, especially when the children are younger. In other words, parents often tell their child to use a device as it provides entertainment, acting like a ‘babysitter’, enabling parents to get on with household jobs and not worry about what their child’s up to. Therefore, we propose adding another tip to the five above:
  1. When able, break the habit of deliberate device use to provide entertainment, i.e. when a device is not the only source of entertainment available, do not simply give it or suggest its use to your child. This should discourage children from being reliant on devices in order to pass time.
To find out more on the research please follow these links: Action for Research BBC news Metro