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Tips For Helping Your Child Disconnect From the Electronic World

Ever since Nintendo made the Pokemon Go video-game app available, young people have been exploring their communities with their eyes firmly fixed on their smartphones rather than on the wonders of the world.

If endless hours spent capturing imaginary creatures seems like an electronic addiction, it very well may be, but that’s nothing new. Many children have been plugged into electronic devices for a long time now, rarely looking up as they help virtual animals save the day, keep race cars on track and watch endless loops of videos on YouTube.

And that can be a concern, says Elaine Fogel Schneider, Ph.D., noted therapist and author of “7 Strategies for Raising Calm, Inspired & Successful Children.”

“They are so attached to technology at such an early age that it’s changing their brain circuitry,” Schneider says. “They begin to lose the back and forth communication with their parents, and/or siblings, as well as the whole notion of empathy. For really young children, these devices have become the babysitter. I fully understand that parents need a break (as do grandparents), but there have to be limits.”

To aid parents in helping their child disconnect from the electronic world, Schneider suggests:

Set rules.

Limit the amount of time your child can spend on an electronic device and be consistent in enforcing those rules. This way your child knows that when you say he or she only has two minutes left, then there really is only two minutes left, not three or four hours.

Use a timer.

A timer does not “lie” and can take the blame away from you when you’re limiting use of the device. Select a timer that measures down the allotted period in increments, so that the child knows when the limit is approaching, and won’t be surprised when time is up. If using a smartphone as a timer, you can even have your child select a tone that he or she likes. 

Be ready with another activity.

Plan an alternative way of engaging your child so when the device is turned off, some other interest can be provided, taking his or her mind off the electronic device. “Describe what you’re going to do so the child’s interest is piqued into doing something else that he or she enjoys,” Schneider says.

Initially use these tips in your home.

As with everything, at first there’s a learning curve, so there may be tantrums, tears, meltdowns and even depression. 

That’s why Schneider recommends following these tips at home first. “I wouldn’t think of trying this out in public right away since I don’t think you want to endure the wrath or glances of diners or shoppers as they hear your child scream,” 

Schneider says. “ In time, the child will know what is expected, and will be able to disconnect from a smartphone, tablet, or other electronic device without any trouble.

“In the long run, you’re doing your child a service by limiting the amount of time spent on an electronic device,” Schneider says. “I can remember hearing my own mother’s words, ‘I’m doing this for your own good!’ And that’s really true.”