We live in an era where technology is one of the many key components to manage our day-to-day life. We are less active and more interactive through technology. We are walking and talking less face to face and chatting and shopping more online. We’ve become way too dependent on technology.
Yet, I see parents always sulking about their kids wasting away their time in the digital world rather than spending it with their friends and families. Be it the phone, laptop, PC, tablet, the gaming consoles or the idiot box. Gadgets and devices are like pendulum; they can swing both ways. The Good and the Bad way and lately they seem to be swinging the wrong way a little too much creating health and other developmental problems, short sightedness even in the very young, as well as more serious issues like anxiety and depression in kids.
So where can we draw a line. You as a parent have to decide how much is good and from where do the bad start.
- Create a Tech free zone at home. Many kids as well as we adults want TV or phone while having a meal or when sitting in the living room with the family. Rather, set this as family engagement time and unplugged with the digital world.
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- Establish limits, guidelines and routines for the use of devices. Like, on weekends TV can be seen for 2 hours while on a weekday it can be limited to an hour. Also, restrictions can be set on Age basis. Older kids might have to spend more time on their laptop or PC in order to work on their school assignments while a younger can be given a lesser screen time.
- Mentor and monitor at the same time. Keep a close eye on what you child is seeing on the phone or laptop and where need be, guide them to use the right apps, channels. Teach them digital etiquette and inform them on topics about over sharing data on social media. Not all time spent on social media is worthless as this time can also be considered as “connecting with friends” however, how much one shares on social media and to whom do they interact with, needs to be monitored. For this firstly the parents should be tech savvy and also do their research.
- Nowadays we see in modern houses that each room has a TV and everyone prefers to sit in their own room and watch TV or Laptop. Set family time. Each one has to be together to watch certain shows or games at home with the family. Place the gadgets and devices in central location where you too can access it too. Like in the living area. This way you have your eyes on the PC/Laptop while your kids are using it.
- Screen time cannot restrict kids physical activity and engagement time. Some times kids choose to sit at home rather than go to the park and play with their friends. They choose gadgets over family get-togethers. For this, we as parents need to set aside time for gadgets and make sure this timing doesn’t clash with the time when kids need to actually go out and play. Lay importance to family meet-ups and make sure your kids are tagged along and not giving into their demand to be left alone with gadgets.
- And foremost, we as parents tend to give a phone or laptop to kids in order to pacify them or to have some silent and me time. This is the worst we can do because the kids then know that if they cry, they will get a phone. Rather look for what interests them and make them do that. For example, a kid may love to color. Keep lots of coloring books in the house and when you see or think your child is going to have a melt down, hand over the books and colors. This will not only calm them but also give you that silent moment which you needed for your own work. When this is done on a regular basis, kids also know that device is not going to come their way and they will stop demanding after some time.
- However, to understand the digital world, we as parents have to be Digitally Literate or lets say E-Literate as well. A digitally illiterate parent can cause a serious problem and over indulged parent can also raise some serious issues. The word we can use here is NETIQUETTE. Yes set some netiquette for usage of devices and gadgets at home for self and for the kids. If you spend more time with the family keeping the phone away, the kids too will do the same. But if you as a parent have your face inside the phone all the time, kids are going to follow suit.
Not all digital time can be same. Like I mentioned earlier, some kids need to spend more time on their laptop as there are either working on school project or an assignment and this time spent is much more worthwhile than mindless surfing done on the web. We have to acknowledge that kids of this age are growing with gadgets and technology, we have to recognize the special challenges and advantages that come with technology, thanks to the level of connection.
When you handover the phone to your child, you also need to support them with guidance about apps, games, group texts, sexting, porn, predators, geotagging and more. This may sound overwhelming but in this time and period, technology is one thing which we need the most and we cannot cut off our kids from it completely however, how, when and how much to use is where you can draw the line. So don’t let your family be screen dominated. Like everything else, as I said earlier, technology has two sides to it. We as parents need to be more aware about which way our kids are swinging.
About The Author – Hansa Kajaria
Based in Thane, Mumbai, Hansa Kajaria is a mom of two. MBA Finance by qualification, she is currently a stay at home mom and also runs a brand Aayera’s Nest. She loves reading books and that has driven her to start writing blogs and small articles.