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Are you struggling with your child’s excessive device use?

18 Apr 2023

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You’ve tried talking to your child and limiting their internet access, but nothing has worked. Why is that so? What else can you do? Our Guidance Specialist Hendriawan bin Selamat shares some tips that may help families move towards managing device use more peacefully and effectively.

Illustrations by Sophia Leow


When it comes to managing your child’s device use, which scenario resonates with you more? Most families will fall in between these extremes.

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Taking away your children’s devices by force will anger them, lead to emotional outbursts and cause feelings of resentment towards you to develop. Your children may also be less inclined to share with you honestly what they do online.

Engage your child in a conversation to discuss some limits and consequences surrounding device use. When they do break the agreement, mete out the consequences that were previously agreed upon. It is important to establish limits and rules on device usage so that your child will know that there are consequences when agreements are broken. 

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While there can be times you use your devices for your own entertainment, frequent use of devices signals to children that it is okay for them to be on their devices all the time too. Children often mirror what their parents do. Demonstrate the habits you want your child to have.

Try setting specific times when everyone should not be on their devices and keep bedrooms and mealtimes tech-free. 

Instead of just asking your child to put away their devices, spend time together with them doing non-tech activities. This helps to emphasise the importance of having a healthy balance of online and offline activities.

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Assuming that misbehaviour is due to excessive device use can make your child defensive and less receptive to what you have to say. This may make it harder for you to get through to them as time passes. 

Engage your child in a non-judgmental conversation to understand why they are using their devices.

Instead of leaving your child to regulate their own device use, check in on what they are doing online, and whether they are facing any issues online and need any support. 

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Expecting that your child can change immediately after a conversation will lead to frustrations. 

Be patient with your child as change takes time. However, if your child becomes irritable or violent when they are not allowed to be on their devices, or they start to lie about their device use, you would need to have more conversations with them and seek help from the school or other community partners if necessary.


For more stories on cyber wellness:
13 and ready for social media... or not?
Helping your child navigate the online world
Fight a cyber bully or...? Why managing students' cyber well-being matters
Teaching students to make sense of what they read online

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