For many parents devices, gaming and the internet have a profound affect on their children's behaviour.
The world our children are living in is turbo-charged by all things technology. Everything is available at the touch of a button and without having to exercise much patience at all. Technology has allowed our children to access so many resources and platforms that have benefited them in various ways.
When school closures were announced, numbers soared on home-learning websites and craft tutorials. It is a gift to be able to quite literally tap in to these resources from the comfort of our own homes. But what is the flip side of this proverbial coin? Is there a darker side to technology and the internet when it comes to our children’s development?
Many parents will comment on the difference in their child’s attitude and behaviour after a stint of online play or screen time. Some notice a level of aggression or anger that was not present before the activity commenced. For this reason boundaries are often put in place to limit the length of time they are allowed to partake in these activities, along with rules regarding where and how they access these activities. Naturally it is often met with resistance as our children gravitate towards this kind of media and play. It’s quick, it’s “grown-up” and it’s totally addictive.
Screen addiction is a very real concern for parents. In many homes the mere mention of a break in screen-time or the suggestion of an alternative activity can lead to a tantrum. For this reason boundaries around screen-time are very important. Communication is key and healthy habits around the use of technology really do need to be an overall family approach so everyone is on the same page. No telephones at the dinner table is a popular rule for example: check out how not to do this with the help of Will Ferrell and Common Sense Media.
You might be wondering in what ways technology can affect a child’s behaviour. For the most part the specific content they are watching or using is key here. If your child has access to the regular YouTube app there is a very strong chance that they will encounter content that is inappropriate for their age. This content may be aggressive or sexual in nature. For this reason it is recommended to download the YouTube Kids app which is specifically targeted at and safe for children to watch. While nothing is completely watertight, there is much less chance of inappropriate content finding it’s way on to your child’s screen. Using youtubekids.com online is another great option when on laptops or PCs.
Excessive use of technology can also lead to children feeling lethargic. This lack of energy can result in a lack of enthusiasm to participate in other activities. They may not want to socialise or spend time outdoors. The same can be said for compulsory school activities and homework. In this arena technology and excessive use can be affecting a lot more than their behaviour. It can also be having an impact on their relationships, their education and their emotional well-being. Screen time before bed can make it difficult for a child to wind down and fall asleep easily. When sleep is poor, everyday activities subsequently become more challenging.
The competitive nature of gaming can also have a great impact on your child’s wellbeing. Losing a game or hearing a negative comment from another user (if they are playing against other people) can really affect their self-confidence and morale. It is important to monitor these activities and where possible to ensure that they are doing them in your presence of or near a parent. There are parental controls and settings within these games and websites to help you ensure that they are playing it in a safe and age appropriate way. Playing against only the computer can mitigate the risks of negative comments or inappropriate content: check out the PEGI site for more on game rating and content.
In general a lot of parents do not like the behaviour that their children display directly following the use of online technology. Some of the most common issues are irritability and anger-related issues. As parents we have a responsibility to protect and empower our children in this area. The best way for us to do this is by imposing boundaries and limitations for technology use in the home: these are even more powerful when agreed on as a family.
Have look at CyberSafeIreland’s suggested Family Agreement. It will probably be met with resistance initially by your kids, but when it comes to their emotional wellbeing, sleep and education parents really have to lead the way on this one.
This content has been checked and certified by Cyber Safe Ireland whose mission is to empower children, parents and teachers to navigate the online world in a stronger, smarter and safer way.