PLAYING WITH MY BROTHER: Hayden and Caleb Copper at Jumbana in Casino.
PLAYING WITH MY BROTHER: Hayden and Caleb Copper at Jumbana in Casino. Susanna Freymark

When do your kids play?

I”M going to be harsh here. Children and screens and the amount of time they spend watching television, playing video games and using an iPad or mobile phone is not an issue to tiptoe around.

Technology and the way we all interact with screens has increased to the point where we need to manage the technology before it “swallows us whole”.

As a mother of three and former primary school teacher, the school holidays seemed the prefect time to discuss how and when children play.

Using screen time as a babysitter while you get things done is tempting. You’re tired, you just want to finish making dinner, the kids are driving you crazy. Resist the urge to stick them in front of the television or give them another hour playing video games.

Children won’t learn to amuse themselves unless they are given the opportunity.

If your child comes to you and says I’m bored, tell them that's a good thing because they will come up with an idea.

Whether its playing under the sprinkler, making ant houses out of leaves or writing a letter to a pen pal, unless there is space for this, the allure of the screen will always win out.

Don’t be afraid to have rules about phones and TV and computers. You are the parent of your child, not their friend so even when they complain, and mine did, keep the rules in place.

As they get older, the amount of screen time can change.

Here are four of my golden rules:

No TV in the morning. I know it is tempting in the morning rush to get out of the house but encourage children when they are ready to read a book, water the plants, do other things beside sit in front of a screen. They will be sitting down a lot at school and need their concentration for learning.

Read every day. Read your own book, and let the children see you doing that and read to the children. Ten minutes is all it takes to nurture a love of books. When my children were little, I almost lived at the local library.

No computers or laptops in the bedroom, especially for teenagers. They become isolated and lost in a cyber world which can be difficult to keep an eye on if they are locked in their bedroom.

No mobile phones in the bedroom of children or adults. Have a spot where all the family charge their phones overnight. For their health, a teenager's sleep is so important and they will be unable to resist the alert of a new text message or Snapchat comment if the phone is by their bed.

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