Parenting, How to Help Kids Share Tech Toys

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fightingtechThe ability to share is an important quality for kids to have as a general rule, but it becomes even more important when budget constraints make the purchase of multiple high-ticket items unfeasible. Devices like tablets, computers and video gaming systems are rarely cheap, and they’re so attractive to kids that sharing can become an issue. Fostering a genuine love of sharing is great, in theory, but can go right out the window when splitting time with a tablet is put into practice. These tips can help you make sharing expensive and exciting new toys easier for your children, and the reduction in arguments can make life easier on you.

Talk About Taking Turns

Before you can reasonably expect your children to be amenable to the idea of sharing a tablet, gaming device or computer, you must first have a conversation with them about those expectations. Let your kids know that taking turns and sharing the device is non-negotiable before it’s ever introduced into your household, establishing from-the-get-go a policy of being generous and respectful of one another’s allotted time. Have conversations with your kids about how they’d like to set up a sharing schedule, and take their suggestions into serious account. You may be surprised at how feasible and generous a kid-designed plan actually is, and kids are more likely to uphold their end of a bargain they helped to create.

Set a Screen Time Schedule

It’s wise to have a reasonable screen time policy in place for your children even before a fancy, new and technologically-advanced plaything enters the picture to keep kids active and engaged in imaginative, electronics-free play. The childhood obesity epidemic alone makes a strong case for limiting screen time, but an enforced limitation regarding how much time kids can spend playing with such things also goes a long way towards preventing battles before they start. Make sure kids understand that the introduction of a shared tablet or gaming device doesn’t mean that there will be an increase in the amount of time they’re allowed to spend connected to an electronic device, only that they will be expected to budget that time more efficiently in order to use it and their other devices. Having an established schedule helps to keep kids from spending too much time wired to a device, and setting that schedule up so that their periods of connectivity aren’t concurrent helps to limit fights over who gets to play with the new toy.

Treat Tech Toy Use Like a Privilege, Not a Right

It’s easy for kids to believe that they have an inherent right to play with their new device. After all, it was a gift. Kids need to understand that their new, shared device is something that you hope they will enjoy and have fun with, but not something that they’re automatically entitled to. Tie tech time to a rewards system in which kids earn minutes for completing chores, homework or other unsavory tasks, and let them know that putting off their responsibilities in order to play with the new toy will result in it being taken away altogether. When kids understand that their time with a tablet or gaming system is something that they must earn, rather than something they’re just automatically entitled to, they may feel less ownership and possessiveness over the device, and thus be more open to the idea of sharing it equally.

Set a Strict No-Squabbling Policy

Letting kids know that arguments and struggles over who gets to use technologically advanced toys will result in the item being removed from circulation altogether can help to keep arguments at bay. When kids know that sharing is part and parcel with being allowed to use a device in the first place, they’re more likely to think twice about launching a power struggle for possession. In order for this method to be effective, however, it’s important to make an effort to ensure that time is split equally. Each child should be allotted the same amount of time with the device, otherwise cries of “unfair!” will abound.

Start a “Check-Out” System

What works for the library can work for the household when it comes to sought-after toys. Set up a check-out system in which kids can check out the toy for a specific period of time, and dock their next session two minutes for every minute it’s “overdue.” This not only helps to keep fighting over the toy to a minimum, but also reinforces ideas about patiently taking turns and the importance of following the rules.

Thanks to Sonny Giffin

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