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Family matters: Gadget getaway

By Heather Large | Woman | Published:

The Easter holidays are on the way but when schools break up, how do you get the children off their gadgets? Heather Large finds out. . .

Tech time out – get your child to have some time away from their gadgets

It’s no secret that children love spending time on gadgets. While it used to be just a case of dragging them away from sitting in front of the TV for hours on end, now there are many other electronic devices like smartphones and game consoles stealing their attention.

Every day children can spend hours at a time starring at a multitude of screens from using a computer as part of a school lesson to playing a game or watching a video on a tablet when they get home.

Some technology-savvy youngsters are also now even multi-screening which is where they are using more than one device at the same time such as watching TV while surfing the internet on their mobile.

Experts tend to agree that there should be a limit on how long children, especially younger ones, spend using such devices, especially those connected to the internet. There are concerns that youngsters can become completely detached from all communication, interaction and participation in family life if they always have a gadget in their hand.

Few parents ban all screens because it’s just not realistic in the world that we now live in. But many want to ensure they are not overly used, feeling it’s healthier for them in the long run.

As a result there is a lot of advice out there which includes setting boundaries such as limiting screen time on week days when youngsters have school but allowing them more time at the weekend.

Or you may consider limiting the activity to the living room and banning it from the bedroom where it can prove more of a distraction – this also serves as a good way of keeping an eye on what they are up to. Leading by example is also very important so you’re not starring at screens yourself all the time especially when you’ve told your child they can’t use theirs. If they can see you’re always checking your phone, they are more likely to keep doing the same.

Parents can aim to make time spent watching screens more of a social activity, and this will automatically make children less inclined to want to use them alone.

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Screen-free days can also work to give everybody a break.

While it’s also widely recommended that parents also consider the type of activity they are being used for as well as the length of time. Their age will be an important factor as you may choose to restrict this activity when they are younger but less so when they are teenagers.

With gadgets connected to the internet it’s also important to ensure your child is safe online. Many products have parental controls or child-safe modes as standard so it’s worth spending the time to make sure these are set.

Not all screen time is bad though and there can be ways to use these gadgets to boost learning such as using educational apps to improve skills such as spellings and times tables.

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When it comes to play time for younger children though, it seems families are to keen to embrace traditional games and put more limits on the use of electronic toys.

A recent survey showed that parents across the West Midlands are now increasingly turning their backs on technology.

They are keen to make sure imaginative games, such as making dens and playing make believe, don’t become a thing of the past as gadgets become more and more popular.

The recent poll carried out by toy manufacturer Playmobil revealed 75 per cent of the parents in the West Midlands are worried that imaginary games are waning in popularity amongst their children as TVs, computer games and electronic devices take over play time.

The research, which targeted 1,500 parents of five to 11 year olds, found that eight in 10 parents in the West Midlands wished their children used their imagination more. The survey also revealed that 91 percent of the parents said they actively try to steer their children away from gadgets, but as a result the typical family has almost five arguments a week when parents remove gadgets from their youngsters.

Dr Claire Halsey, clinical psychologist and child development and independent parenting expert, said: “It’s important to remember that play is for fun. Play is the everyday ‘work’ of children and it is how they explore, learn and satisfy their own curiosity about their world.

“There is clear evidence over the past couple of generations that the balance has tipped away from traditional games and time spent being active outdoors towards more time indoors in electronic play. Parents play the central role in making good decisions.”

It seems it’s all about striking a balance and discovering what is right for your child and what amount of technology and screen time you are comfortable with.

Fancy taking a break from technology and gadgets this Easter? Here are 10 ways you can escape the screens and enjoy a day out during the school holidays:

  1. Tackle the Gruffalo orienteering course at Cannock Chase. Children up to age eight can use a map to find 12 Gruffalo markers, inspired by the popular character created by writer and playwright Julia Donaldson. Once they’ve found each marker they need to answer a question. See www.forestry.gov.uk/gruffalo-orienteering
  2. Take to the water at Dudley Canal and Tunnel Trust. From March 30 to April 15, hop on a boat trip and head into the caverns. Keep an eye out for evidence of the big Easter bunny himself and spot the giant coloured eggs he’s been keeping safe here for the chance to win a prize. See www.dudleycanaltrust.org.uk
  3. Go for a picnic. Pack some sandwiches, fill the flask with tea and grab a blanket to enjoy lunch al fresco. To make it even special, why not try out some recipes for some sweet and savoury treats which you can all make together.
  4. Get closer to nature at Sandwell Valley RSPB, which is based around part of Forge Mill Lake within Sandwell Valley Country Park. Between March 31 to April 15, youngsters can enjoy egg trails and other wildlife-themed activities. Call 0121 358 3013.
  5. Seed Sowing at Manor House Museum, West Bromwich. On April 5, staff will be offering all sorts of plant, flowers and even vegetable seeds for you to grow in your own garden as well as some decorative crafts to put alongside them. Call 0121 588 2985.
  6. Delve into the Secret Life of Gnomes at Himley Hall and Park. This special children’s trail event around the ‘Capability’ Brown landscaped parkland will run from 11am until 3pm on April 4. Visit www.himleyhallandpark.co.uk
  7. Try traditional egg-rolling at the Black Country Living Museum. Competitions will be taking place as part of the attraction’s Easter celebrations between March 24 and April 15. See www.bclm.co.uk
  8. Marvel at the Jelly Invaders at Sea Life Centre, Birmingham. Dive in to a world of slime, stingers and brainless jelly in a new exhibit. Visitors can marvel at their graceful gelatinous shapes bobbing through an underwater wonderland and uncover their mysterious abilities. See www.visitsealife.com
  9. Get creative at the Red House Glass Cone Glass in Wordsley. Visitors can make glass treasures on different themes working in the site’s glass fusing studio. The theme for April 3 is emoji and for April 12 it’s dinosaurs. Sessions, for ages five and upwards, run at 10.30am, 11.30am, 1pm and 2pm. See www.dudley.gov.uk
  10. Step back in time at Dudley Castle. Join one of its popular guided tours of the 11th Century castle situated in the heart of Dudley Zoo. On April 5, the theme will be Knights in Armour and the talk suitable for both adults and children aged eight and over starts at 6.30pm. To book call 01384 215313.
Heather Large

By Heather Large
Special projects reporter - @HeatherL_star

Senior reporter and part of the Express & Star special projects team specialising in education and human interest features.

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