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Too Much Tech Under 12? The Screen Time Balancing Act

14/07/2015 09:25 BST | Updated 13/07/2016 10:59 BST

Increasingly, we're hearing how technology is taking a toll on children, developing kids with no imagination or sense of reality outside of videogames and fantasy worlds.

Although we'd be blind to think technology is not a fundamental part of life today. So where's the balance? How can we let our children experience technology in a healthy way, while shaping them into upstanding adults?

Here are my top tips on how to reduce tech time in children under 12:

No tech under two

No tech for children under two - their brains are developing rapidly at this age and they learn best by interacting with people. If you're tempted to use technology when your child is this age, opt for highly interactive and educational options and only for very limited periods of time.

One hour until 12

An hour is plenty of tech time for children under 12 and there should be at least an hour between the end of screen time and bedtime. Part of the pre-bedtime hour should be used to recap what happened during the day. This is a proven meditation technique that settles the brain and calms the nerves.

As kids get older (9-12) you can empower them by allowing them to choose when they spend their time on their electronic device. Would they like 30 minutes in the morning, and 30 minutes in the evening? Giving them this control is good for building confidence, making decisions and accountability.

Bedtime stories

This remains one of my all time favourite techniques for chilling kids out. A good story before bedtime, or at anytime, will always calm children down because it's naturally passive. It also triggers the imagination and helps kids develop creative tendencies - great for problem solving and conjuring up ideas. Reading time will aid sleep and rest the eyes.

Tech-free mealtimes

This should apply to the entire family and guests: no tablets and phones at the dinner table!

This is hard, for children and adults, especially when emails and texts are still coming in from colleagues and clients. Hide all devices out of sight before sitting at the table and forfeit anyone who reaches to check their phone or tablet - the threat of doing the dishes is usually a good deterrent!

Alternative activities

Of course, the biggest complaint when we take away tech is boredom. So what can we fill all that spare time with?

Computer games offer kids three very enticing things we need to replicate if we're to entice them away from the screen. Computer games reward progress and encourage problem solving, they tell great stories and can encourage teamwork.

Look for games and ideas that replicate these elements. Scavenger hunts are a great all-rounder. The aim is to race around the house or garden collecting items in the fastest time. Sounds a lot like a computer game, doesn't it? Except, your kids are actually moving and working in teams to solve the problem.

Some computer games require coordination and dexterity. In our day, we exercised these skills in maze puzzles, jack straws and marbles. These games are still available and there are modern day equivalents, too.

Help your kids tell stories of their own, with props and play tents that add a sense of fantasy and make believe to the real world. Doctors, castles, tunnels and pirate ships are just some of the themes found in toys today. Even a game such as charades - no props needed! - can help children imagine, act and create.

Balancing independent play with parental input will help top up their learning with a dose of education. Your kids might also appreciate your help to create make believe worlds out of old sheets and washing lines, cushions and boxes. Be sure to explain your suggestions and ask them for their own, so they remain involved and engaged in the world-building tasks.

Read the original article at The Toy Hunter.