It’s a scene being played out in homes across the country at this time of year.
Children and teenagers who unwrapped the latest mobile phone, tablet or computer games and console on Christmas Day are now excitedly trying out their new devices - and possibly not doing much else for the rest of the school holidays.
And while most parents will be pleased their presents have been received so well, they may be a little concerned about the impact the digital world has on their children’s mental health and wellbeing – and on family life in general.
Our Public Perception survey, carried out by YouGov earlier this year, found that 83% of UK parents of under 18s worry about the negative effect of social media on the mental health of children and young people.
It also found that:
- 86% of parents were concerned about cyber-bullying on children
- 84% were worried about who young people are talking to online
- 82% were concerned about how much time children spend on social media
- 81% were concerned about the type of social media platforms children have access to
- 70% were concerned about the impact of social media on family life
Our Children, Young People and Families Lead Jo Holmes, a former school counsellor, said: “The digital world has changed the landscape of how we connect and disconnect with family life.
“For families, it’s important to get a good balance between screen time and other face to face activities. The holiday period gives us a chance to do this. But everyone needs to agree to put their devices down for a bit – parents and children. It’s an opportunity for parents and carers to model positive behaviour and put their own handsets aside to play and interact with their children.”
Here are some of Jo’s digital self-care tips for families.
Negotiate and agree non-screen time
Get everyone in the family involved in discussing what this can be. Even agreeing a short period of time where you all put down your devices can make a massive difference. Negotiate what works for you as a family.
Ensure adults model positive behaviour
This is an opportunity for parents to demonstrate positive behaviour so their children to see that they don’t have to be glued to their phones all the time.
Keep devices in a different room
This can help reduce the temptation to keep sneaking a look at your message or social media. You don’t have to carry your phone around your house with you.
Let family and friends know what you’re doing
Tell people that you’re having some digital downtime and you may not be replying to messages or calls immediately.
Find some face to face activities the whole family will enjoy
Agree what you’re going to down with your non screen time as a family. This will be different for every family – some may enjoy a walk in the park, while others might embark on an epic game of monopoly or giant jigsaw.
Talk about what it’s like not being constantly on your devices
This is a chance for you as a whole family to explore how you feel about not being constantly in contact with other people through your phones or other devices. It’s a chance to talk about why this can be hard for children as well as adults. It can open a door to talking about the positives and negatives of the digital world as a family.
Jo adds: “Although you may be trying these things in the Christmas holidays, it doesn’t have to be a one-off. Try to build this into your family time throughout the year.”
To find a BACP-registered counsellor or psychotherapist near you visit our Therapist directory.
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