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MDX academic's top tips to keep children off phones and gadgets at Christmas

Research by MDX lecturer Dr Jacqueline Harding revealed parents are desperate to mediate their kids' digital usage

Picture: GCapture/Shutterstock.com

Christmas is a time for giving, a time for eating copious amounts of food (and later regretting it) and spending quality time with your loved ones.

And in today's digital world, Christmas is also a time when many of us are completely engrossed with the latest hi-tech gadget which Santa kindly delivered.

Middlesex University academic Dr Jacqueline Harding found through research that parents are desperate to mediate the amount of time their children spend playing video games, texting on their mobile phones and trawling through social media.

Dr Harding, an expert on child development, is the founder of Tomorrowschildtv, a web television channel which offers advice on parenting in the digital age.

Her research involved asking parents of children aged 18 and under, questions such as: How, where and when do you step in to curb your child’s screen time and use of all the hi-tech gadgets in the home?

Many parents were actively monitoring and in some cases restricting their child's digital usage but they were often unsure of how to get advice on tackling the issue, according to Dr Harding's research.

She said: "My research found that parents tended to be aware of some of the risks of excessive screen time and the dangers online but wanted support in managing it all in the home.

"In answer to the question: 'Who can you turn to for advice?', parents tended to report that the digital world is evolving so fast their own parents and friends can’t really help.

"They want advice that doesn’t make them feel like a bad parent and for it to be provided in a way they want it: accurate, short, to the point and empowering."

With the dangers of excessive screen time on a child’s wellbeing now well established, Dr Harding said it is time to embrace the benefits of getting those eyes off screens.

To help, Dr Harding has written ten fun tips on how parents can help keep their kids' screen time at bay this Christmas.

1. Get crafty: Making paper chains as decorations is simple and wonderfully time consuming (and therapeutic in its repetitive nature).

2. Game time: Why not reintroduce old time games, such as Cat's Cradle (string or wool is all that is needed) Hunt the Thimble, Simon Says, or the Object Memory Game.

3. Storytelling: Humans are story telling creatures – we love a good yarn – so, why not play that old time game where one person starts a story and the next person adds to it – great for long journeys to see relatives at this time of year.

4. Cook up a feast: Children often love to browse books for quick and cheap festive recipes and help to make lists and buy the ingredients with you…and the result (though often messy) will be admired by friends and relatives.

5. Get out and about: Armed with hats, gloves and paper bags, why not go to the local woods to collect fir cones and twigs? Then you are all set for a creative time back home making wreaths or table centre pieces.

6. Put on a play: Bring out the budding actor or singer in your children by helping them with simple script writing and providing music. A make-shift stage, a box with a hole cut out tuning it into a 'TV' works wonders. Help them write and send out family invites to the performance and lo and behold …one day has passed without eyes on those screens.

7. Making gifts: Making presents can certainly be cheaper than buying them. Why not try making gifts together – mince pies, cakes, candles, calendars – the list is endless and all helps reduce the need for eyes on screens!

8. Treasure Hunt: A whole pile of fun is ready and waiting by creating a set of indoor or outdoor clues, with a little prize waiting at the end (use picture clues if your child can’t read).

9. A new hobby: Coax out new passions, such as helping your child try out quilting, sewing, knitting, or modelling clay. Time can pass quite happily without a screen in sight.

10. Act of kindness: Sadly, there’s always someone in need at this time of year. A visit together to a lonely neighbour or making up parcels to help with the many charities asking for toys, clothes or food make this time of year meaningful. Activities like these certainly help to take those eyes off screens and gadgets and help us all focus on what really matters at this time of year.

Go to Tomorrowschildtv.com for further film based support or get in touch with Jacqueline by emailing J.Harding@mdx.ac.uk if you would like to know more or get involved.

Find out about Education Studies

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