5 Tips To Banish The Techno Tantrum
As a parent, you’ve no doubt experienced the ‘techno-tantrum’. If you’re lucky enough to have escaped the techno-tantrum to this point, brace yourself (and read on so you’re armed).
What is a ‘techno-tantrum’?
It’s a child’s tantrum after they’ve been asked to switch off or hand over a digital device (be it a TV, tablet device, gaming console, or even your mobile phone).
So is there anything that parents can do to prevent the onset of a techno-tantrum?
Yes. These tips are toddler-tested and work (most of the time). The trick is that you have to be consistent. Easier said than done, right?!
- Set Firm Guidelines- As a family you need to establish (and enforce) firm guidelines about ‘how much’ screen-time your child can have each day. Before you hand over your tablet, smartphone, remote control or gaming console be very explicit about how much time they can have with the device. It’s too late to do this after you’ve handed over the device. For younger children time is a very abstract concept so perhaps quantifying the number of apps that can be used, or the number of TV episodes that can be viewed is a more direct approach. For older children, media tokens and media contracts are effective (download free templates here).
- Give Two Gentle Reminders- as an adult there’s nothing worse than your boss (or spouse, or children for that matter) disturbing you when you’re in that state of flow. You know that state when you’re totally engrossed with what you’re doing that you genuinely lose track of the time. Well the same thing often happens with children when they’re using digital devices. They become completely engrossed with what they’re watching/playing/creating. Before their time is about to expire on their digital device, give them two warnings. Make sure that they make eye contact with you and acknowledge what you’ve said.
- Use a Timer- your child is much less likely to argue with your smartphone timer or an egg timer than with you! Use the timer on your digital devices to set and enforce screen-time limits. Did you know that your Clock app on your tablet device allows you to set a time limit and then locks the device after the elapsed period of time has expired? Watch a demonstration here.
- Encourage Your Child to Switch Off- this is a simple one but it really empowers your child. It also gives you something positive to reinforce and encourage (thus, increasing the chances that they may repeat it in future). All you need to do is simply ask your child to switch off the device (i.e. turn off the TV, power down the tablet, turn the gaming console off). This seems like a trivial thing but it’s very different to you walking in the room and quickly (or angrily) flicking off the TV, or prying the tablet from their hands. They’re more likely to feel like they had some control over switching off and are therefore less likely to have a tantrum.
- Play Bad Cop- if you experience a techno-tantrum after using the four tips above, have a direct (adverse) consequence related to the device. For example, your child may not be able to use your smartphone the next day because they couldn’t pass it back when you told them their time was up. You only need to implement tip #5 once or twice and your child (usually) soon learns that these limits are enforceable (and their desire to use the digital device is a very strong motivator for them).
From one parent to another, I’m wishing you every success in trying to banish (or at least limit) the techno-tantrum.