3rd and last Part of my Interview with Child Therapist and Author Ulla Dyrløv. We talk about the physical and mental side-effects of exposing your child to screens (tablets, smartphones, laptops, social media, computer games etc) too soon and for too long time. Ulla gives us a “Digital Guideline” for how to best help our kids to healthy online habits and a healthy use of screens in our parenting. Right now you can follow Ulla on a Danish TV documentary (Når skærmene styrer familien) as she gives advice to families with kids showing a severe addiction to screens.
I hope you’ll enjoy this highly informative Interview.
Ulla: Another major problem is that kids see and hear way too much too early, because they have access to the internet and often view it alone. Small kids have seen everything from porn to horror. Researchers have also found that what frightens children the most is the news, more than anything else.
So as a parent you must be aware of that your kids are exposed to a lot of things they need to reflect upon with you. They also search for various things on Google or Wikpedia. I tried to make a search on Google and I wrote: “Scary videos” as a search term. I immediately got access to Youtube’s 10 most scary videos with the headline: “These videos will ensure that you cannot sleep tonight!” I clicked on them and they were very frightening. They were all about ghosts, I mean real ghosts, or poltergeists.
So, if you do not talk to your child about what they find online and if it is disturbing them, then they will believe that ghosts do exist. Naturally we cannot necessarily rule out whether or not they do exist, but I don’t believe in them.
You have to teach your kids that not everything they see online is true and this can only be done through dialogue.
The best solution is naturally to close down all those things that are disturbing for your child online, and it begins with you as the role-model. Children learn from their parents. They learn more from what they see than what they hear.
It is also crucial that you show interest in what your child is spending his or her time on. Don’t only do it when it is about correcting them. Go into their world and explore it together with them.
When they are around the age of 8, you could sit down together and type:”scary movie” or “sex” in Google and see what comes up, cause they are doing this. Then you can click on some of the links together and then you can say: “if someone wants to show you things like this, then you had better not watch it yet”. So, you address all these things with your child.
Nina: Yes, well, it feels like it is quite early to take up some of these subjects with your 8-year-old, but on the other hand, if they are exposed to it through browsing the web alone or with friends, then I guess you have to.
Ulla: Yes, or a friend from your class finds it funny to push a phone in front of your face and show you a violent video clip. So, that is why it is good to prepare your children. But of course, you do tons of other things with your children too. Go outside – for example to the forest and make animals from chestnuts or other games, which many today label as “old-fashioned”.
Nina: Haha…I was just going to call that an old-fashioned game.
Ulla: Yes, it is crazy that we call it that, cause the kids love it. They love exploring nature with you.
Kids really want to spend time with their parents, which I also stress many times throughout my book. However, it also depends on if the parents are fun to be around.
If the only thing you hear from your parents is: “Remember to do your homework. Did you remember to do this or that?”, then they most likely prefer other company.
You know they love playing old-fashioned board games, walking the dog with you, cooking together with you, which is teaching them a super important skill. The same goes for cleaning.
Nina: Yes, they need to learn that one day anyway, so we might as well pass on those important and basic skills from home.
Ulla: Yes, and kids cannot control or foresee the consequences of what might happen to their brain and well-being if they play 4 hours computer games daily. This is your task as a parent.
Or if you, Nina, gave your boy a tablet tomorrow, I promise you he would work out how it works within no time. It is designed so that even a chimpanzee can use it! (Note to you dear reader, my boy is 2 years and 8 months)
Nina: Sometimes my Son watches a video clip of himself on my phone and he knows exactly how to find the videos, from observing me.
Well, now we have been talking a lot about the more explicit signs of screen-stress if we should call it that, where the kids experience fatigue, depression, isolation, lack of social skills etc. But there is one more element to it all, which is the massive exposure to the radiation from the wifi.
Ulla: Yes, with the sleep disturbances, and the ability to focus…
Nina: Yes and the ability to reproduce later on in life. There are so many things we can only guess the long-term consequences of, as we have not had enough time to experience it yet. We have yet to see the downside of being exposed to radiation / wifi at such early ages. We have a lot of devices in one room, all of which are sending out or receiving data. I find it very frightening.
Ulla: So do I.
One of the things that has really got me up from my chair after writing this book, is that it has become mandatory in some schools in Denmark, that children from 0-class (note to reader: this is around the age of 6-7 years) must have a Tablet to follow the teaching.
So as a parent, you are not allowed to say no. I don’t know if it is in all the regions here in Denmark, but in Gladsaxe, where I live, it is mandatory.
It is a law made by the Parliament, so not even the school can say no to it. That really scared me. If I had had kids in that school at the age, I would have put my foot down and said “no way!” I wonder what would have happened then?
Nina: Well, that does seem quite crazy. I live in Germany now, in Berlin, and in comparison to Denmark we are way behind when it comes to how technologically advanced everything is here. When I visit Denmark, which I do a handful of times per year, I feel like we are 10 years behind Denmark here in Germany.
I mean, almost everything you do in Denmark happens via the phone. It has replaced the wallet as a means to pay for your groceries etc, you can control your lights, locks etc at home via an app, while you are away on holiday.
When everything is online, it also just makes it an integrated part of your every day life and you stop paying so much attention to it and also to the possible negative sides of it. The phone has really become your lifeline.
I think a lot about how it is “taking over” because I can be objective living here in Berlin in another culture, while diving deeper into my Danish roots from time to time.
Another thing I have noticed happening a lot more in Denmark (or in Copenhagen) than here in Berlin, is the large number of parents, who are busy with their smart phones while being together with their kids – especially on the playground.
They sit next to their toddlers (0-3 year olds) who are playing in the sand and the parent is clearly much more busy with something on their smartphone.
It makes me feel sad and I wish that they could just enjoy sitting there with their child and not need to constantly get out their phone from their pocket or bag. Just put that phone far away. What is it that is so important it cannot wait ‘till after the playground? But then again, the parents have also become addicted.
Ulla: Yes, that is the point.
Nina: In many ways I am actually relieved to be living a more “technologically-laid-back-life” here in Berlin.
Ulla: I really understand that. It is incredible what it is that makes it so different in Berlin?
Nina: Well various reasons I presume. One thing is that it is a great deal faster to implement new technology in Denmark, being such a small country with 6mio people in comparison to Germany with its 83mio people.
I think the challenge is that in Denmark, we feel we are so far ahead of other nations and that it is great for us. I used to share that opinion when I lived there 6 years ago! It is something we are proud of. But, when you step back and take a look at how people actually thrive or feel mentally during this rapid change, it has not really been worse than it is right now has it?
Ulla: No. It is true. You are right, we could talk about a ton of things here.
Nina: Yes, I will have to do another interview with you! If people want to know more then they can find your books online, unfortunately only in Danish at the moment, but hopefully also in English at some point.
Thank you so much for taking the time to share your knowledge with us Ulla. It has been very inspiring and I hope it may help many parents out there.
I hope you have enjoyed reading the interview with Ulla Dyrløv.
If you want to know more about Ulla Dyrløv or read her Danish books, you can visit her website by clicking here.
Do you want to read other inspiring interviews? Then you can click on the links below.
Enjoy reading and feel free to drop me a comment if you have any questions.
Smiles from Berlin
Interview with Lars Muhl – A world famous Danish Esoteric Author and Rock Star – click here.
Interview with the famous Danish Painter René Holm – click here.
Interview with Singer Marcia Barrett of BoneyM – click here.