The first thing to understand here is what the impact of screen time on children is? And then we will understand how to do screen-free parenting. And what are the ways to creatively engage our kids so that their screen time starts decreasing gradually?
But before we talk about our children, let’s talk a bit about ourselves. Let me ask you, have you ever hum a song you know while it’s playing or if you have gone to watch a movie and have laughed or cried with the playing sequences. Most of you will answer yes to these questions. And what I am trying to imply over here is that we are shaped with – what we see, what we hear and what we do. The same logic holds true for our kids as well.
They are in their growing years, their learning age and hence they grasp much more from the environment around them. To understand the science behind it whenever we see, hear or do anything, our brain cells are triggered forming a neuropath. And when we see, hear, or do the same thing repeatedly that neuropath gets stronger. And hence it’s our foremost responsibility towards our children to positively design what they are seeing, hearing and doing.
For today’s parent’s technology has become a dilemma. Because today’s generation is a digital generation. We can’t take them off technology. You can’t tell them that they are not allowed to use gadgets because these days everything is connected digitally whether it’s learning, studies or entertainment. If they know how to utilize technology, we are making them handicapped to be able to function in today’s world. So the challenge over here is how to optimize the screen time for our children. But before we address this challenge let’s ask ourselves, do we know how much time is the optimum time and what are the impacts if we go beyond this optimum time.
To list some:
- Children are becoming addicted to screen
- They are becoming socially unaware
- Not interested in making friends or interacting with family
- Uncomfortable in social gatherings
They may be getting faster in speed and processing but when it comes to relationships, it’s becoming extremely difficult for them to form meaningful bonds because they are not used to human interaction for an adequate amount of time.
Children learn from their environment by experiencing smell, touch, tone, voice, colors, textures and when they repeat the experience they form it into a skill such as language skills, social skills, etc. But if they get only environment as a screen in any form, it has a large and long run impact on their social, emotional and physical growth. Whenever they are on their phone or iPad, their neck and back are bending for long periods of time ignoring the correct sitting posture. Activities and playing are very important for correct physical growth and that has become dormant these days. The problem of neck pain and back pain is increasing multifold in all ages of kids, especially smaller ones.
Whenever I talk about parenting, I always say parents are like players on the field, ready to bat and not knowing from where the ball is going to come. So the idea here is to enhance and empower your batting skills. Bat is an essential part of cricket and using the same analogy let me explain that BAT is a very essential skill or rather set of skills for parents. What BAT stands for here is Boredom, Alternatives and Time.
Boredom: Common thing we as parents do is that whenever our child starts getting bored and cranky we give them gadgets and tell ourselves that he or she is using technology to learn something and it is a faster way of learning as well so what’s so wrong about it. As soon as the child says I am getting bored, the first thought as parents come to our mind is that “Oh, I am not doing enough as mother or father and hence my kid is getting bored”. And then we get panicked or go on a guilt trip for not taking good care of our children and then take help of quick fix technology. But in all this what we forget is that boredom is the key to creativity, it’s the first step towards innovation, to learn and create NEW. So when a child is getting bored, we as parents don’t have to instantly find a solution but have to start thinking in your child’s mind that if he or she is getting bored, then what new or interesting they should do. Let them come up with their own games or activities however foolish or silly they seem. You may choose to participate in them or let them play independently and don’t forget that boredom is the key to out-of-box thinking.
Alternatives: are those activities which your child loves to do while they are not on a phone or laptop or any gaming device. Try and identify those interest areas and create a passion fr them from the early ages of your child. They can be anything ranging from outdoor activities, sports, music, dance, playing chess, writing, book reading, cooking, gardening, etc. Even gardening can be an interesting activity for children because they are very fascinated by different shapes, sizes, colors and textures. So you can develop their interest by helping them sow different color and sizes of seeds in the soil. Playing in soil and sand is very important for the development of children. So the key is to find ways to keep your children interested in alternatives to be off their gadgets.
Time: You may have noticed that there may some particular times of the day when your child misses or craves for the screen. It may be while eating for small children or after coming from school for bigger ones or probably before sleeping. So try and break that pattern by introducing any other activity at that time when your child is getting cranky for the screen. DO NOT ever make the screen time a routine and scheduled activity. For example, don’t tell your children that 4-5 is your TV time or after homework, you can watch DIY videos every day. Always try and have different times on different days to screen for your children. This way you can break the habit of screen time and avoid addiction. In fact, you can use screen time to your advantage to teach certain habits and behaviour to your children. Screen time can be used as their reward which they earn for being good.
Apply BAT techniques and be a super parent!!!