Screen time has become a matter of tiff between parents and kids these days. They can’t seem to get enough of watching different screens. On the other side, parents are struggling so much to make kids understand the implications of screen times. I have a close to 4 years old kid at home and he argues bluntly for watching TV and mobile whenever I ask him to switch it off. As per a research, media time for 0 to 8 years old has tripled between 2013 and 2017, from an average of 15 minutes per day to 48 minutes per day. The same study says a tween on an average spends 5 hours in a day for different screens and for teen kids this is close to 7 hours. And the most worrying thing is this craving for media and screen time is keep increasing no matter how much they watch in a single day.
It has become a common trend to give mobiles to infants and toddler to buy some time. Parents feel it keeps him engaged while they can finish other important chores. Soon babies get addicted to the mobile phones. Similarly, as a kid grows up, she starts watching cartoon shows on TV. Many parents themselves introduce kids to the TV. I bet there is any better way to make toddlers and preschoolers sit at one place than cartoon shows. However, soon parents realize that kids are getting aggressive and impulsive. They try to mimic what different cartoon characters do. They even start making virtual friends on TV shows and YouTube rhymes. Woefully kids show more meltdowns and tantrums when prohibited from watching TV.
It has been observed that kids these days do a less physical activity that the kids of 10 years back. Every screen time whether TV, mobile phone, iPad or gaming console, is a lost opportunity for kids to learn in real time. They lose what they can learn by interacting with others, playing outdoors, creating or enjoying social time with family. Too much screen time also increases the risk of becoming overweight, sleep deprived, unattentive, aggressive and introvert in kids. It’s not so that kids don’t learn anything at all with these different screen times. Of course, they do. It is the most creative and engaging medium to make kids learn new things. However, in the absence of any supervision, kids get less of the benefits and more of the distress with watching more and more TV and mobile phone.
A primary challenge in policing the screen time is a false perspective. Most of the parents feel with scolding or regulating different screen times, they would be able to keep kids away from the ill effects of media. However, it is impossible to break this habit without understanding that parents also need to abide by those rules that they wish their kids to follow. Kids do what parents do so when as parents you don’t put your phones down or you don’t miss your news hours, how can kids understand that long hours of TV or mobile time can make them frail both physically and mentally! I have been into this as my son is also a TV lover. However, I have started taking corrective measures at the right time in my house.
You cannot keep kids completely untouched by today’s digitized world. However, you can set a clear limit. For example, 1 hour of TV watching with 2 hours of physical activity outside. This is just an example. There could be variations in the number of hours depending on the age of the child. Keep an eye on what kids are watching. Offer them fun alternatives. However, the most important point is to be a role model yourself. As I said, kids learn from parents, so you need to practice yourself what you preach. Don’t check emails every other minute in front of the kids. Delay your TV or mobile time until kids are asleep.
With little thoughtfulness, you can keep screen time for your kids under check. And this is highly needed in today’s world of technology and internet. Isn’t it?