As a parent, I struggle with the balance between technology and getting my child out, active and engaged. It seems like our children prefer iPads over hanging out with friends face to face or going out on a walk to explore.
If you are a parent of a child with additional learning needs, is on the Autism Spectrum or you just have one of those kids that is kind of clumsy, you are more likely to have a child who’s going to gravitate towards technology and sedentary activities. This is often because it’s easier than all the social and motor experiences that don’t come naturally.
No matter the diagnosis, there are the 3 steps that you can use at home to get started setting boundaries between screen time and movement.
- Have a place where devices go for a certain hour or period of the day. Create space for children to be available to the outside world.
Proactively plan something that is movement-oriented and social but does not involve technology. This way, you start setting up a routine where everybody puts their device in the same slot for a predictable time of the dayand focuses their attention on what is happening around them.
- Do the same for yourself as well.
Plan a time to put your phone down. Stop allowing yourself to be pulled into the distractions of the day as the master planner and organizer of your household.
There is usually not an emergency where you have to have a phone right next to you every single minute of the day. You don’t have to be constantly available to everything the outside world has to offer. Set a time where you are present for your child while encouraging him to be present with you and away from technology. Model the behavior you want to see.
- Manage access to screen time closer to bed or set up a schedule for winding down screen time in the evening.
Too much screen time and too much light exposure in the later hours of the day decreases melatonin production and affects a child’s ability to sleep. When sleep is dysregulated, children are more easily overwhelmed during the day. Then the cycle continues: They go back to technology to feel safe and secure.
Make sure children stop using screens about two hours before bedtime. It may be hard for the child to stick to the routine initially but hang in there! It is worth it so they can be more available to handle the experiences from the outside world as they go through the day.
Our children are growing up in a world where they never knew life without a smart phone. But if you start by creating white space away from technology and working to improve sleep quality, you will be well on your way to a raising a child who is creative, regulated, and ready to face the world!
Join our Parenting Children with Special Needs in a New Reality Facebook group for more discussions and information about supporting your child and finding a good balance between technology and movement.