The exposure to the digital world is continuously growing and its at a peak since Covid-19.
Clinical psychologist & Founder of The Lighthouse Arabia, Dr Saliha Afridi would like to shed some light on this possible threat.
Many parents and educators feel helpless when thinking about how to manage their children’s technology use. It is unrealistic to think that children will not be exposed to digital devices in today’s world.
However, one thing that might make it easier for them is to consider the uses of the devices and limit the usage of entertainment technology and allow for educational technology.
Let’s face it, most of us are not worried about our children spending hours on their devices doing multiplications. We are mostly concerned about their attention spans, their use of social media, and their addictive behaviors to gaming.
Studies have found that both technology and social media platforms can leave children, and adults, with feelings of anxiety, depression, disturbed sleep patterns, the potential for cyber-bullying as well as distorted body image.
What are some steps parents can take towards this?
Think about what type of adult you want to raise and build your parenting style around that. If your child says ‘everyone has Instagram” and you agree to them having Instagram on that premise, you are basically giving them permission to “do whatever everyone else is doing.”
If you explain to them that other people base their decisions on other things, and you are basing it on science of addiction and your family values, then you are teaching them an important life lesson: how to make decisions from the inside out.
Before you have conversations with your children about entertainment technology make sure you do your own homework. Know the pros and cons of entertainment technology, ready about the addictive nature, be clear about why you are not wanting your child to engage in it yet or have limited engagement with it.
Consider your child- There is no ‘right’ age to give a child a smartphone or access to entertainment technology. There are some young children who are mature, while some teens who are more prone to addictive behaviors and recklessness.
Just as you would when you invest in a pet, you consider whether your child is ready for such a responsibility, know your child before you hand over a device or gaming console. Is this something that they have the maturity to responsibly use?
Teach your child and stay up to date with new information. Taking from that practice, as parents, and children use technology, it would be good practice to keep up to date with your own personal continuing education on the latest apps, their pros and cons, and how to best use them. It would also be important for children to learn about digital citizenship, cyberbullying, and how to interact online.
A recommended amount of digital time, of course, depends on the child’s age, however, a rule of thumb would be that they should have engaged in all the ‘must do’s’ before they can engage in entertainment technology.
This means they have done their homework, engaged in physical activity, read for 20 mins, had their meals, showered, before they can go online.
As a community, we should also encourage governments and educational institutions to develop and offer age-appropriate technologies and standards. This is where educational arenas need to further develop.
There is a necessity to integrate mental health awareness and lessons within the core curriculum so that our children are better equipped with a tool kit so they can grow up to be emotionally intelligent and aware adults. Prevention is key.
Lastly, if your child is showing signs of mental health illness, it is imperative you seek help early.
As a clinical psychologist for the past 13 years, Dr Saliha Afridi has spent 12 years working in the UAE and founded The Lighthouse Arabia in 2011, a community mental health and wellness clinic providing quality psychological and psychiatric care to children, adults, couples and families.
Contact The Lighthouse Arabia Center for Wellbeing for more info and to book an appointment +97143802088