Screen Time Leads To Scream Times:
Even before Covid hit, our children were getting bombarded with graphics and visual special effects at hours on end on their devices. We were having scream battles over screen times even before our lives were upended by a Pandemic (incidentally, this also happens to be the Merriam-Webster Dictionary word of 2020 ;)
What’s new now is that at any given point in a day, we don’t know whether our children are educating or entertaining themselves as they attend digital school during this lockdown.
Holidays, especially, can be a tough season to navigate the needs of the family while also making sure kids are not tethered to their devices all day.
Alarming Trends in Children Screen Time:
Toddlers, children between 12 months to 3 years, are exceeding the recommended daily use of digital devices and screen time according to a new study by JAMA Pediatrics. Currently, daily screen time from personal, mobile and digital devices is more than 150 minutes a day, their research has found.
There are children as young as 2 years who are living more in the virtual worlds of their devices than in the real world of curiosity and play. The real problem with children playing video games is not the actual time they spend on it. It’s actually the lack of context and meaningful interactions associated with the content they’re consuming.
Organizations like the World Health Organization (WHO) and The American Academy of Pediatrics have said repeatedly that no baby under 18 months should be exposed to a screen except for face-to-face family interactions. Children between 18 months and 5 years of age should only be exposed to one hour a day, preferably with parents or caregivers who interact with them about the content on the screen.
Here is the Media Usage Recommendations for Children from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
“Avoid digital media for toddlers younger than 18 to 24 months other than video chatting. For children 18 to 24 months, watch digital media with them because they learn from watching and talking with you. Limit screen use for preschool children, ages 2 to 5, to just 1 hour a day of high-quality programming.”
Kinds Of Digital Parenting:
There are three kinds of Digital-age parents.
Digital Enablers are those parents that live and let their children live. They love their technology and as a result their children are blessed with plenty of screen time. Their argument – this is the iGeneration, they have a different childhood than our own. We have to evolve with time or else we’ll be left in the dust.
Digital Restrictors are maniacal about their children consuming too much tech or staying too long on their personal devices. They are acutely aware of all the conversations around the negative influences of technology on their anxiety, attention spans and productivity. They mostly take a “completely off” approach.
But, can we really take back our kids to an era when we were kids? Will it help them thrive when so much around us is changing so rapidly? No, it’s not practical. Since technology is here to stay, let’s understand that it is not bad, but the way some of us are using it is.
Digital Gatekeepers are parents who try to be digitally savvy while keeping up with their children’s evolving technology environment. By taking an active role in their lives, these digital-age parents enable children to understand the right ways to stay engaged in the real and online worlds. They strive for a healthy balance of both worlds.
Bridging The Great Technology Divide:
Love it or hate it, technology is here to stay. Helpful or hurtful, its taking over our children’s lives. To feel empowered and not helpless, here are two things we can do to rule the devices in our lives.
And here’s a fact. Kids don’t have the discerning power and the ability to self-regulate. But we can teach our children to learn, understand and experience the world around them in real time. We’re the master, not our technology. Tech is here for us to be our tools for productivity and connectivity.
When children are on their screens, ask them if they want to create content that excites them rather than consume everything they come across passively. Ask them their intentions and what motivates them to play games online. Encourage them to code for games that they and their friends can then play. It can be a great way to show their talent and pursue their interests.
Create a direct connection between their lives and what they do work towards on a daily basis. Attach meaning and significance to their actions and hold them accountable to how they spend their time.
Ways To Empower Our Children:
1. Let’s create an awareness for our children that our phones are designed to be addictive. The reward we experience when using our phones are unending (think endless scroll), are intermittent (think notifications) and unpredictable (likes or comments on our pictures). As a result, our device manners intensify the pleasure centers of our brain.
2. Among all things, we must teach our children the importance of living a well-balanced life. Technology is a tool to our goals, it’s just a means to the end we want to achieve. Before understanding who we’re and what our aspirations are, its unproductive to get sucked into the vast possibilities of what Tech promises to offer.
For more strategies on how to combat screen time and understand the alternatives we have, please read HERE.