Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Slave to the screen? Recognise the tell-tale signs and know what you can do about it

It's World Television Day today… There’s no denying the fact that we all spend far more time staring at screens (and not just tv screens, but desktops, tablets, phones, and laptops too) than we ever used to; or that our children are growing up more reliant on screens than we would want them to be. It’s not just at home, either. Much of their school work is now completed online too.

Technology does have its benefits. However, as individuals we all need to take care than we are not only aware of exactly how much time we spend interacting with screens, but also take the necessary steps to minimise any effects that excessive screen time has on our health, and our emotional wellbeing.

There are definitely ways to protect our brain from too much stimulation - including spending more time outside and establishing a healthy sleep routine - this article from Psychology Today looks at them in more detail.

But before we do that, it’s important that we are able to recognise the tell-tale signs that indicate when our screen time is becoming excessive. Common signs of overstimulation include:

  • Irritability
  • Inability to relax
  • Lack of organisation
  • Reluctance to empathise with others

There’s a name for regular over-use of devices – it’s called electronic screen syndrome. This article from Psychology Today takes a closer look at the effects that regular over use of devices can have on the brain.

Overcoming over-reliance

There’s only one way to overcome the effects of too much screen-time and that’s by cutting down the amount of time you spend on devices. It’s hard to self-regulate. It’s about putting aside a certain amount of time each day when you will turn away from your screen and give your brain a rest from the stimulation. Set a time limit – and stick to it. It will be hard at first, but distraction helps to break the habits you have. Make sure that you make plans for what you will do with the time when you’re not looking at a screen.

These screen restrictions apply to our children too. As parents, we may not notice the positive effect of restricting screen time right away, but over time it will result in a variety of health and wellbeing benefits (such as better sleep habits, improved performance at school and increased desire to interact with friends and family). Remember, we cannot expect our children to do this for themselves, it is our job to guide and help them to develop a better understanding of the benefits of less screen time.

There are many things we can do that will help. Here’s a few tips:

  • Remove the TV and devices from your child's bedroom. 
  • Don’t have the TV on watching during meals or homework. 
  • Don’t eat while watching TV or using a computer. 
  • Turn on the radio for background noise. 
  • Make sure the device-free times are observed by all the family 

For more information about how to help your kids break away from the box, have a look at this previous blog post:

Friday, 9 November 2018

Ways you can support a child who is being bullied

Times have changed. Years ago, while bullying existed in our schools and open spaces, home remained a safe-haven where children and young people could retreat and feel safe. Today, however, our children are not afforded this luxury. Bullying often continues long after the school day has ended and the challenge for parents is how we can best support our children when they’re going through a difficult time.

Give them your time

Having a non-judgmental, calm ear that they can talk to, whenever they feel the need, is the most important thing you can offer to your child when they’re being bullied. As a parent, your instinct will be to sort the problem out, to fix things. That is not what your child needs at first. Make it clear that you are there for them and encourage them to speak to you every day. Reassure them. Let them know that whatever they are going through is not their fault and that together you will sort it out.

Give them an outlet

When you have been bullied, you start to feel as though everyone is against you. It is hard for you to recognise happiness and joy in your life. Encourage your child to write things down. By asking them to keep a diary, you are helping to serve two purposes. Firstly, it becomes easier to keep track off the bullying incidences and monitor for escalation. But more importantly, it can really help us show our children that even in difficult times, goodness exists. Let your child know that the diary is for their eyes only, but do take the time to talk to them about what they have written and to talk about their experiences, good and bad.

Give them some coping strategies

Helping to build your child’s confidence by giving them tools and techniques they can use when they’re being bullied can really help them take some control back. This is important to prevent them from feeling powerless. Talk to your child about where to go and who to speak to when they are feeling vulnerable and need to escape. Help them to identify five people who they can go to if they are worried or concerned – this list should include people both inside and outside school.

Give them some assertiveness tips

When you are being bullied your self-confidence takes a real battering. Unfortunately this can sometimes leave you more vulnerable and an ‘easy target’ for bullies. Coaching your child – through role playing – to be more assertive, will really help them to build back their confidence. Show them the difference that positive body language and eye contact can make when dealing with others and help them appreciate when to stand tall and when to remove themselves from a situation.

Give them some ‘off’ time

Nowadays, we live our lives online. Cyber bullying is becoming increasingly common among teenagers and it’s especially hard for people to escape. As parents, we need to take control. Make sure your child has some ‘off’ time at home to switch off, particularly around bedtime. Work with your child to monitor their social media and take screen shots of anything that you deem inappropriate.

Remember – and always remind your child - that bullying can happen to anyone, at any time. It is not a reflection of the person. If you’re worried that your child is suffering, this previous blog on bullying will help you spot the signs: