Today, many parents struggle to reduce screen time and find other ways to engage their children. For many, the struggle is to be able to persuade their children to disengage from the screen.
Now that online schooling has brought screens to the home, the magnet of online games and recreation seems to consume most children’s hours.
Ironically, for parents, the screen is an easy tool at their disposal that gives them some respite, but screen addiction in young children is not what most had bargained for. Most parents and guardians realize that children shouldn’t have easy access to technology at such a young age. Yet we are all guilty of doing it because we have to multitask, we get tired and because kids love it. Surprisingly, two-year-olds today can probably use a smartphone better than I can.
Yet despite how easy it can be to hand this gadget to your child, I will say the obvious – screen time for children is not at all appropriate. Research from the Indian Academy of Pediatrics points out that children under the age of two should not be exposed to any type of screen except occasional video calls with loved ones. For children aged two to five, screen time should not exceed one hour, although less is better. For ages over five, screen time should never come at the expense of another developmental activity such as physical activity, sleep, schoolwork, eating, etc.
Plus, more time spent on phones and tablets also means less time spent with others. This comes at the cost of slowing down and hampering the development of language, social and interpersonal skills that develop the much-needed capacity to feel compassion and empathy.
Unfortunately, it can also cause isolation at a young age, leading to issues such as increased anxiety and even depression in the future.
Therefore, despite the fact that we can be proud that our child quickly understands their mastery of technology or learns nursery rhymes through YouTube, screen time for children beyond school should be minimized. and discouraged.
Before the technological age, children enjoyed childhood in the truest sense. A childhood that led them to use their imaginations to create games, find friends to play with and connect with the outdoors – all the tools needed to sculpt children into healthy, confident and social beings with real meaning. of their world.
Although we have identified the problem, I would like to focus on some possible alternatives for involving our children.
Start with the old-fashioned game
Children today are hardly allowed to be. Children need free, unstructured play time. Give your child the opportunity to think and understand while playing alone or with friends.
Adults can provide children with open materials (cardboard boxes, empty bottles, nature collections, etc.). However, avoid telling them what to do with it. Let them use their thought, creativity and imagination to determine how they want to use the materials.
Children are natural scientists and will be busy exploring the possibilities. It is important that adults do not cast their shadows on children.
Have art materials such as pencils, paints, glue, and different types of paper available. Don’t ask them to make a finished product of your choice, instead encourage them to explore and create whatever they want.
An open approach will encourage your child to think, give them ownership and confidence in their abilities – all essential life skills! I encourage board games, puzzles, and specific research projects based on a child’s interest in older children. I have witnessed the success of this process with my own grandchildren.
Be a role model
Today, as parents and children are spending more time at home due to the pandemic, children increasingly admire parents. Children imitate what they see, not what we ask them to do.
Therefore, it is crucial that they see that you are not spending all of your free time on a screen. Parents can also reserve an hour or more, entirely dedicated to the child and free of any gadgets. It can be the same every day because children appreciate predictability. Have a ritual of reading to your child, listening and dancing to music, cooking together, playing, etc.
Spending time outdoors
The kids will usually follow whatever you prefer. Make time spent outdoors part of your routine. Simple games with a ball, riding a bike, climbing rocks, planning a picnic will make the outdoors a fun time for the family.
You can organize a play date with your child’s best friend or introduce them to a new park or sport. Or if the child is old enough, it can be his free time with friends. Knowing that they can choose how to use their time outdoors can boost their self-confidence, improve their social skills, and help them take responsibility.
Instill a habit of reading or storytelling
Children benefit a lot from books. Help your child choose books that interest him. Take the time to read daily. Reading to your child is the most beneficial thing you can do as a parent. To read for the pure joy and pleasure of history. This will encourage your child to become a lifelong reader.
Reading Together is a positive bonding activity that helps develop language, imagination, and increase understanding of various concepts and emotions.
Children may choose to do this, and young children often naturally stage scenes from a story. You can help them understand the emotion behind a character’s role or have them share their thoughts on how the story might end, etc. Storytelling is not only a great substitute for screen time, but also has many benefits and the emotional side of memories of a lifetime. .
Help cultivate a hobby
Like us, kids also turn to a phone when they’re bored. Help them fill that time with a hobby they enjoy. It can be a creative hobby like dancing, singing, learning an instrument of their choice, or learning a new skill of embroidery, cooking, art, etc. It doesn’t have to be an organized activity and can be an activity at home or at a friend’s house. at home so that they can look forward to it.
Let the kids decide on the hobby, and give them time and space to find out what they like. That way, they won’t feel like they have to do something.
In conclusion, there are many ways to engage young children as they are inherently curious, capable and strong. Parents and caregivers should be prepared to devote the time and effort necessary to encourage children to seek entertainment other than gadgets.
Additionally, as parents, we need to give our children the freedom to explore ways to care like our parents would and let them engage in old-fashioned, unstructured free play.
It is essential that children spend time away from screens, as time away from technology can do wonders for a child’s social, emotional and cognitive development.
(The writer is the founder of Learning Matters, an early childhood education organization of Max Learning Ventures.)
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