Preventing Techno-Tantrums

Preventing Techno-Tantrums

By Dr Kristy Goodwin

Your child screams at you telling you, “You’re the worst mum in the world!” This might be followed by feet-stomping, huffs and puffs, clenched fists, grunting and a host of other (undesirable) behaviours. And all of this because you simply asked for your iPhone back! As modern parents, chances are we’ve experienced our children throwing a techno-tantrum.

So does this simply mean that we have to accept techno-tantrums, as a modern parents’ reality?

As I’ve previously explained, techno-tantrums are completely normal and often a result of the neurobiological changes that occur when kids use technology. But this doesn’t mean that we have to simply accept that they’re part of our modern parenting reality.

What you need to know about techno-tantrums

  • You can read more about why kids have techno-tantrums here (and it’s not just to infuriate you);
  • Just because your child doesn’t like handing over your smartphone, or shutting the laptop lid doesn’t mean they’re addicted. It simply means that they’re having a (strong) neurobiological response and if their tantrums have been occurring for a while, you may need to establish some new healthy, technology habits.
  • Over time, if you’re consistent with your media rules, your child’s techno-tantrums are likely to subside or completely disappear.

There are some simple strategies that we can do to minimise the onset of a techno-tantrum. Whilst I can’t guarantee that these will always ensure that your child gleefully switches off their device when asked, they can certainly reduce the chances of experiencing an emotional explosion (aka. a techno-tantrum). The following strategies will help to reduce the severity of a techno-tantrum and over time, techno-tantrums will dissipate:

  • Establish and enforce firm guidelines about how long they can use screens
  • Focus on quantity not duration
  • Use a timer or clock
  • Provide cues and verbal reminders to transition away from the device before their time elapses
  • Encourage young children to switch the device off themselves
  • Have a succession plan
  • Play bad cop
  • Be consistent

Remember, techno-tantrums are often a normal part of development. They’re an emotional storm that children aren’t yet equipped to handle. That’s why our job as parents and educators is so critical – we have to show them how to deal with these big emotions without always combusting into fits of tears.

Remember, young children don’t yet have the hindsight or catastrophe scale to deal with this situation because of limited life experiences. So when you ask for your smartphone back (and their brain is giving them lots of dopamine, they might be in the state of flow and there’s novelty- something new and exciting to look at), this feels like a level 10 on the catastrophe scale.

Don’t take the situation personally. Like all ages and stages, this too shall pass.

If you would like to learn more about helping your child in a digital world, check out our Events web page for upcoming Dr Kristy Goodwin events.