Screen time and video game addiction among lockdown struggles for families

Free webinar for parents on digital wellbeing and screen time
Screen time and video game addiction among lockdown struggles for families

Picture: iStock

Barnardos is organising a free webinar on digital wellbeing and screen time for parents – and professionals working with children – for March 30.

The charity’s online safety programme has found Irish children ‘plugged in but switched off’, with 68% of Barnardos project workers reporting that screen time and addiction to video games are proving big lockdown challenges for parents.

Barnardos Online Safety Programme training executive Cliodhna Purdue says as lockdown continues and life becomes increasingly digital-focused, more parents and children are struggling with managing digital wellbeing. “Parents have spoken about their struggles with children’s meltdowns when asked to stop playing video games. Some parents are also feeling guilty when their children say ‘put your phone away and play with me’.”

Purdue says parents describe children as being in a different world when they’re on screens. “Yes, they’re together physically in their house as a family, but they’re not listening to each other.”

Lockdown has accelerated the online gravitation, with its focus on digital learning and children’s usual activities being off-limits. “There’s no GAA training, no dance classes. Children aren’t allowed out to play with friends so they’re playing with them online – that’s fantastic, but the amount of time online creates difficulties.”

Purdue urges parents to be strong role models in their digital life. “Children just want your attention. If you’re on your phone a lot, they want what you have – so they want a phone.” 

Picture: iStock 
Picture: iStock 

She recommends a family agreement around screen boundaries – no phones at the dinner table or ‘no text’ Sundays, with all devices put away and not used. “It acknowledges: we want this time as a family and we won’t be distracted by screens.”

She recommends ongoing conversations with children about their online use, specifically asking how they feel if they’ve been online a long time. “When we ask children how they know they’ve been online too long, they say their eyes get sore, their phone gets hot, they get headaches. Making them aware of the screen impact on them – rather than ‘nagging from parents’ – will help them understand that balanced screen use is really important.”

The webinar – supported by Google.org – includes:

- Overview of child development and screen time from child psychotherapist Joanna Fortune

- Three concurrently-running workshops, each targeted at different cohort (parents, teachers/professionals, policy-makers)

- Tips to manage children’s digital wellbeing and screen time

- Google and TikTok on tools to help parents manage kids’ screen time

- Young people giving their take on digital wellbeing.

See: barnardos.ie/pluggedin

Barnardos: Be a STAR online

  • S: Stay safe – have a secure password, no sharing personal information
  • T: Think smart – be critical about images/people/ideas you meet online
  • A: Ask for help – understand where to go when you need help; recognise the signs that you’ve been online too much
  • R: Reach out and be kind. Be an ‘upstander’ rather than a ‘bystander’. If a friend is being bullied, defend them or talk to them. Do something – don’t stand by and do nothing
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