Tag: Dr Rosina McAlpine

How Do I Set Safe Screen Time Limits for My Children?

Win Win Parenting 

Dear Dr Rosina, How do I set safe screen time limits for my children?

Most parents experience the challenge of limiting their children’s time facing a screen (whether TV, iPad, phone, laptop etc). We know in excess it is harmful for children, however, even as adults we feel the potential addictive nature of technology checking messages, social media alerts or achieving the next level in a game as almost irresistible. So, how can we manage technology within safe limits?

  1. Know the recommended limits for being on a device and share them with your child. 
  2. Help your children understand the many dangers of excessive time facing the screen. 
  3. Have screen-free times and areas. For example: none at mealtimes, before exercise or in bedrooms 90 minutes before sleep.


Read more from Dr Rosina McAlpine HERE. 





The Dangers of Challenges and Dares for Teenagers

If I had a dollar for every parent who has said in frustration to their teen “just because your friend dared you to do it – doesn’t mean you should have done it. I didn’t raise you to be a sheep!” then I’d be a VERY rich woman.

And with teens now having connections, not just with friends in their immediate circle, but access to the millions of teenagers on social media around the globe, the “dare culture” and the “world social media challenges” are even more worrisome for parents.

Challenges and Dares

It may not make any sense to an adult, but teens have been engaging in a variety of modern-day dares and challenges. Some are much more dangerous than others. Worrying challenges include the laundry pod challenge, the outlet challenge and the cinnamon challenge. Here’s a brief overview:

As parents, we need to be particularly careful to keep poisonous substances out of young children’s reach. A study in Paediatrics noted that 92% of children ingesting laundry detergent packets between 2012-2017 were under six years of age. More recently, it’s not just young children ingesting laundry liquid that parents need to be worried about. In fact, an increased number of older children are swallowing laundry pods in response to the Tide pod challenge – making teens very unwell!

The outlet challenge is where the plug of the phone charger is inserted into an electric socket. A coin is then inserted between the plug and the socket. This can not only result in a fire but it can also electrocute the person completing the challenge.

The cinnamon challenge is a seemingly harmless challenge. It involves teens filming themselves eating a spoonful of ground cinnamon in 60 seconds without water. However, an article in the American Academy of Paediatrics noted that short-term harms included choking, breathing cinnamon into the lungs and lung damage. Longer term there can be lasting lesions, scarring and inflammation of the airway.

Given the potential for harm, why do teenagers take on these challenges?

Surviving the Teenage Years

Parents often talk about “surviving the teen years” when their sweet young child becomes unrecognisable as an unruly, disrespectful and unmanageable teenager. I’ve heard parents say their children went to the “dark side” during the teens years. Thankfully, most also said that their teenagers eventually came back. However, parents need to take measures to help their children stay safe and survive the teen years unharmed.

The Dangerous Teen Years

Did you know that the teenage years are the most dangerous period of life for human beings? Risk taking is at its most extreme in the adolescent years. Teenagers not only respond to dares and challenges but also engage in other dangerous behaviours including:

  • Experimentation with drugs
  • Binge drinking
  • Attempted suicide
  • Self-harm
  • Reckless driving
  • Unsafe sex

And that’s just to name a few.

Why are Teens so Reckless?

While teens might look like young adults, and even be able to reason like young adults – they are far from being responsible adults. In fact, teen brains are “wired for risk taking” during the adolescent years.

Now, instead of confusing you with a whole lot of brain science, below are the simplified key parts so that you can get a general sense of what is going on inside your teenager’s head.

Teenage Brain – Really Simplified

In teenagers, the part of the brain that experiences emotions, motivation and pleasure is heightened – everything feels so good. This drives teens to seek pleasure and want to experience the euphoric “high” of risk-taking.

However, the “thinking” part of the brain (the pre-frontal cortex), the part that manages impulse control, reasoning, planning and considering consequences, is not fully developed until the early- to mid-twenties for girls and the mid- to late- twenties for boys.

The adolescent brain drives teens to follow their impulses without the ability to curb those impulses and think things through – especially when they are with their friends. Teens feel an intense need to be accepted by their peers, which is often why they engage in risky behaviours like dares and challenges.

Laurence Steinberg PhD, an expert on adolescents, likens teenagers to a “super-charged car with no breaks!” Steinberg has authored numerous articles and books about teenagers including ‘Age of Opportunity: Lessons from the New Science of Adolescence‘, a great resource for parents wanting to navigate the teens years successfully.

What Can Parents do to Keep Teens Safe?

There’s no “one” easy solution for parents and children to safety navigate the teen years. However, while there is no magic solution, we know from experience and the research of Steinberg and others that parents can make a significant positive difference in the lives of their teenagers by:

Focusing on maintaining a strong and open relationship with their teen. Making time to ask about their day and how life is going. Listening to understand, rather than judge, criticise and reprimand.

Understanding teenage brain development and that they aren’t fully able to manage their emotions, make responsible adult decisions. They also can’t fully foresee negative consequences.

Being empathetic, trying to feel what teens are feeling and experiencing – not from an adult perspective but a teenager’s view of the world. Repeat back what they say, to show you were listening and understand. Making it safe to talk to you about anything without being shamed or punished means they are less likely to hide things from you.

Being a good sounding board for teens to test their ideas. Offering options rather than telling them what to do and offering your solutions. We all know that teens don’t take being told what to do well and will probably do the opposite!

Being involved in your teen’s life but NOT micro-managing. Knowing where your teen is and who they’re with. While children are in your care, they will always need some guidance on expectations, limits and boundaries.

Finally, when it comes to dares and challenges, be clear that it’s about keeping your teen safe. Focus on HOW challenges are dangerous and WHY you have limits and expectations. Teens are more likely to comply when they don’t feel like you’re exerting control and want to stop their fun.

Most of all, give your teen lots of LOVE and endless amounts of PATIENCE (a sense of humour helps too). Rest assured, one day, your teen’s brain will mature and they will return from the “dark side”!


Visit Dr Rosina’s website here

Read more PakMag Tweens and Teens blogs here and Parenting blogs here. 




13 Things to Unteach Your Kids – Dr Rosina McAlpine

Any parent who has accidentally sworn in front of their child and then heard it come back at them wishes they could “unteach” their child the expletive. When you reflect upon some of the many things you’ve taught your kids consciously or unknowingly – how many do you wish you could unteach?

It is important to recognise that sometimes we might inadvertently teach our children things we don’t really want them to learn, and then we need to “unteach” them. Here are 13 things you may wish to consider unteaching your children:

1. Swear Words 

It’s hard to unteach a swear word after your child has learned it, so the best way to move forward is to explain that it is not a nice word to use and mum or dad made a mistake when they said it. By trying not to use it again and offering a substitute word to use if the swear word comes, you might succeed in helping your child to “unlearn” it (but there are no guarantees it won’t come out when grandma comes over!)

2. Beliefs About Money

Were you told emphatically that there was “no money” and that “money doesn’t grow on trees”? Have you passed those limiting beliefs on to your children? Unteaching negative beliefs about money and instilling positive beliefs can make a positive difference in the way your children approach life and money.

3. Chores Aren’t Fun

Have you created a belief that “chores are no fun and simply have to be done?” Sure, that is one way to approach chores, but if you wanted to, you could unteach this by explaining to the kids that there’s a new rule in the house –that chores ARE fun. You can put on music and be together to get each job done in a creative, fun and cooperative way.

4. Negative Attitude

Do you and/or the kids start the day with a negative attitude? If you say things like “I feel so tired”, “I’ve got so much on”, just remember that kids are always listening. If you want to unteach a negative attitude, start the day with a “good morning ritual”, like setting positive goals for the day.

5. Technology Obsession

From toddler to teenager, taking the screen away can result in a total meltdown. It’s hard to unteach an obsession with technology … as adults we know that ourselves! Unteach technology cravings by finding activities to do together that are screen free.

6. Kitchens are Not for Kids

Often we send kids out of the kitchen as it is easier, quicker and safer because parents can be time poor. However, once we’ve taught our kids not to help – it’s hard to get them back when we’d love the help. So unteach your children that kitchens are not for kids and get them involved with all aspects from menu planning to preparing and cleaning up. You’ll get the help you need and they’ll have skills for life – Win-Win!

7. Just Do as Your Told

“Respect your elders” “I’m the adult and you simply need to listen and do as you’re told” are words children often hear. Teaching kids to simply do as they are told may seem like a great thing, however sometimes a more beneficial approach is teaching your kids to consider why they’re being asked to do something. By getting children to follow their inner compass, it can help children make good choices and be safe.

8. Gender Stereotypes

The world is filled with ways that children can learn unhelpful gender stereotypes. When parents become aware of their child’s unrealistic stereotypes like “mums should stay home while dads should work”, “football isn’t for girls, it’s a boy’s sport”, they can unteach these stereotypes by challenging them and offering a different point of view to support equality for all.

9. Being a Praise-Junky

It is not uncommon to hear parents praise their children TOO much. Kids can become reliant on praise from others for their self-worth. You can help your child unlearn the need for external recognition and praise to feel worthy and lovable by helping them to be more internally referenced, rather than needing external praise. For example, instead of offering praise, ask your children to reflect on whether they did their best, if they are happy with their work.

10. Junk Food is a Treat

When we call junk food a “treat” we create conflict. For example, when we eat something we call “junk food”, it’s going in our body and our mind thinks “this junk food is bad for me!” Then if parents deny their children a sugary, fatty, processed food they call a “treat” – children feel like they’re missing out when parents just want them to stay healthy. Unteach equating junk food with a treat.

11. Practice Makes Perfect

We’ve all heard the phrase ‘practice makes perfect’ and we know that it’s virtually unattainable. It’s too stressful to strive for perfection all of the time and can result in challenging perfectionist tendencies, so try unteaching this phrase. Replace it with “practice makes personal bests”. The more we practice the better our personal bests get.

12. Saying No

Does your toddler or teenager say a resounding “NO!” to everything? Many parents find this really frustrating. So perhaps you could start by considering how many times a day you say “no” to your child. When your child hears lots and lots of no’s you can bet you’ll get lots of no’s back. Instead, start saying more yes’s and you might find you’ll get more yes’s back. Here’s a short video on how you can do that without giving in to every request! Check it out in the online version of this edition at www.pakmag.com.au.

13. Always Getting What They Want

Often, it’s easier to let your child get what they want after they whine incessantly, as it will give you a break from listening to it. However, this can teach them that whining works, so there needs to be a balance between “No” and giving in. Otherwise, your child will likely realise that this works, and then continue to do it. There are many things that parents do out of the goodness of their hearts or to reduce their stress when dealing with their children. These don’t always have the best effects on a child’s development however, and it is better to nip the bad habits in the bud while they’re still young. Remember to seek help and support when you feel overwhelmed with juggling the struggles of parenting.

About the Author

Dr Rosina McAlpine is the CEO and creator of the Win Win Parenting program. Win Win Parenting practical and fun programs are delivered across a variety of organisations including early learning, school, corporate and government organisations in Australia, New Zealand and The United States. Dr Rosina is an internationally recognised awardwinning researcher and educator. Read more of her work on our website here