It's time to get back to reality
Updated: Oct 12, 2018
Five ways to help lead your kids back from the virtual world.
We have all been there. A twenty minute video game has just turned into an hour and it is time to leave for music lessons. Or set the table for dinner. Or just interact with the rest of the family.
You take a deep breath because you know what you are up for. Your child’s reaction could be any of the following:
- "Just one more minute" (which really means ‘maybe you’ll forget about me again’)
- "But I'm in the middle of..."
- Totally ignoring your request
- A burst of tears
- "It's not fair..."
- and any other form of screaming and frustration
I am sure you have many more.
Although there is no magic wand, here are five ways that might help ease your child's transition back to reality.
1. Start from a place of empathy
Before the battle begins, take a deep breathe and start from a place of empathy. The last time you were in the middle of an email and your child needed your help, what were the first words out of your mouth? For me, it is often "just a minute". Transitioning from one task to another is difficult for all of us and keeping that in mind as you approach your child's transition will help ease your frustration.
Not only that, kids follow examples and I know I can do a much better job of setting good ones. In fact, the reason they are on their device too long is probably because I was in the middle of something when they wanted to do something else ;)
2. Set clear expectations from the start
Kids need structure and when it comes to devices and online play, it is no different. Setting house rules (and sticking to them) is a start. Some examples might include:
- no devices in bedrooms
- no devices at mealtimes
- device gameplay for only 'x' minutes at a time
- device gameplay only after 'x'
3. Plan for what is next (reality)
Reality isn't always fun and the allure of virtual world stimulation can often trump humdrum chores like cleaning up your room or doing homework but giving your child the opportunity to anticipate and plan for the 'what's next' is an important step in real world transition.
You can also throw in some creativity along the way and maybe reality won't be as big of a drag. Gamifying chores (bet you can't clean your room in 20 minutes!) or promising special time with your child to do something together can make any task fun.
4. Negotiate a clear time or milestone and hold to it.
It is hard to just drop what you are doing and it's even harder during an awesome slime video or when you are about to complete a super hard 'obby'. And what makes it worse, kids can get so engrossed on what they are playing or watching that they don't even hear you.
In verywellfamily.com's recent article on 7 Things You Should Do When Your Child Ignores You, this important point is highlighted: "It’s important to distinguish between willful defiance and simply not hearing you. If you yell to your child when he’s playing video games in the other room, he might be too engrossed in his game to hear you call him."
Here are some helpful hints to assist with the negotiations:
- Use the pause function to break your child's focus on their gameplay or show
- Ask your child how long they need to complete what they are doing. (Negotiate accordingly!)
- Take a look at episode lengths and agree to how much longer or a number of shows
- Use your device timer (and your child's) to make sure that you know when 20 minutes are actually up.
5. Talk to your child about the impact of devices on their mood
It is never to early to talk you your kids about mental health, using references they can relate to. In Kidictive Inc.'s 2017 Battle of Screen Time Survey, we found that 79% of parents found that screen time affects their child's moods. When you notice your child frustrated or more confrontational, help them recognize their patterns and acknowledge the influence of screen time when it is not healthy.
The battle may continue, but perhaps these tips will help you at least survive the transition and help your child develop healthy habits between the virtual and real world.