From star-charts to pocket money, parents today have been taught that praising and ‘rewarding’ children for good behaviour is the quickest route to a happy family. But should we be teaching children to view computer games as a reward for behaving well?

A new survey by child research specialists Childwise has revealed a surge in the number of tablet computers being used by children. Their findings also suggest that parents are using time on these devices as a way of rewarding or punishing their youngsters.

However, one psychology lecturer has claimed that using technology as a bribe may actually be encouraging kids to spend more time in front of the screen.

Dr Katerina Kantartzis, a lecturer at Birmingham City University, has argued that parents should be planning more days out rather than bribing kids with technology.

“Using a tablet as a reward or threat will make it more desirable to children, which is loosely based on the principle of scarcity, proposed by Cialdini in 1984. The more scarce something is, the more we want it,” she said in response to Childwise’s 2015 Monitor Report on children’s media use.

Instead of focusing children’s attention onto computer devices – and therefore making them appear more desirable – Dr Kantartzis suggests that parents should spend more time trying to integrate new technology into more traditional forms of play.

“Parents need to incorporate technology into the play options available to children rather than into an item placed on a pedestal,” she said.

“Technology features in any household these days and inevitably children want to use it.

“Bribing or threatening with technology could actually make children want to use it even more. Parents need to ensure that they have enough activities available for their children and that they are planning regular days out to stop their young ones from wanting to use technology constantly. If enough activities are being planned, I’m sure we would find that the last thing children want to do is sit on a tablet for hours.”

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