One of the most common stressors for parents/caregivers in 2018 is managing their children's device or technology usage. This is true for all families, but particularly true for children with behavioural, social and emotional challenges. It can be particularly difficult for these families because:
Children are sometimes managing their distress/overload/stressors by using screens/devices/gaming to cope
Parents/caregivers of these children are dealing with more stress than average and find it hard to have the emotional resources required in managing this issue
These children are more likely to experience strong frustration and disappointment
It's not surprising then that putting limits on these activities is extremely difficult for parents/caregivers and children. Most parents understand they need to do this – but it’s one of the hardest issues parents face.
As professionals, we will often hear (if we work with parents/caregivers directly) about this distress. Here are statements commonly heard:
I can't get my children off screens
Is he/she addicted?
What do you suggest? What can we do to reduce his/her gaming?
I'm sure that you know as well as I do that there are no easy answers. Unfortunately as professionals parents are often desperate for help, and it can be tough working with these families when we don't have any quick/easy fixes for them.
As with all issues in this job, I remind myself that there is no "one size fits all" solution. I feel my role is to not give advice about this topic but instead work through various options with families.
I start by asking many questions of parents/caregivers to help them identify their biggest concerns, previous strategies and what they most want from me. For example:
How much/when/what is your child doing on devices?
What are the different concerns you have about device/tech use (getting at least 3 or 4 specific problems - ie not enough sleep, exposure to violence, potentially increasing defiance, sibling conflict, no creative activities etc etc)
If you had to choose 2 of these which concerned you most, what would they be?
Is there anything you'd like me to do/What would you most like my support with?
Do you have specific questions for me about this topic?
What have you tried?
What has worked to some degree, and for how long?
What else have you considered (in terms of their response/ways of managing) - and what makes it hard to do this?
What do you think is the next step?
I tell parents/caregivers that there are a range of different ways families manage this issue, and encourage them to experiment with these approaches to see what works best for their family.Read More