The ubiquity of screens, which include TVs, phones, tablets, and computers, in everyone’s lives makes it harder to limit screen time use. These days, children who were born not knowing a life without these black mirrors find it hard to be away from their gadgets for extended periods. As digital natives, these screens have permeated their lives at home and even in school.
You can’t discount the convenience and innovation these screens bring in terms of education. Through its rapid growth, students benefit from new tools such as digital textbooks, virtual libraries, and online learning platforms. However, just like in most technologies, it’s not without its dark side. In a 2020 survey conducted by the National University of Singapore, 80% of the Singapore parents surveyed were concerned about screen addiction, poor sleep, and inappropriate content. Rightly so, with infants and toddlers being exposed to at least 2 hours a day of screen time when the recommendation is zero screen time at this age.
So, what can parents do to balance the use of gadgets at home? Here are a few recommendations that you can start implementing in your home for healthier and happier kids.
Set Screen Time Limits
It’s impractical to totally eliminate gadget use at home. Instead, you can follow the recommended guidelines for screen time limits set by experts. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) and developed countries like Singapore, children under 2 should not be exposed at all to any screens, while children in grade school and adolescents should have no more than 2 hours a day.
Model Responsible Gadget Use
Children learn by example, especially your example. So, when it comes to responsible gadget use, everybody has to abide by the same rules. For instance, demonstrate appropriate tech etiquette by putting away your devices during family time, meals, and important conversations. Moreover, show them how to use technology as a tool rather than a constant companion. For instance, while traveling, having Internet access is crucial so that you won’t get lost even with the cheapest sim only plan.
Encourage Reading Books and Other Screen-Free Activities
Cultivating a love for books early in life will make your child an early reader and help curb their addiction to the screen. Instead of letting them spend their free time glued to their gadgets, make regular visits to the library or spend time outdoors. Furthermore, encourage your child to explore other screen-free activities like drawing, playing musical instruments, or engaging in outdoor sports. These activities not only keep them away from screens, but they also stimulate creativity and physical fitness.
Minimise Distractions During Homework
Homework and reading time should be sacred moments for focused learning. Designate a quiet, well-lit space that’s free from distractions, including gadgets. In addition, teach your child how to manage their time effectively, break tasks into manageable chunks, and stay organized. These skills will serve them well throughout their academic journey.
Relocate the Screens in the Family Area
In many cases, your older children will need access to the Internet for homework or projects. As a compromise, you can put the family’s computer in the living room or near the kitchen where you can supervise while you complete your chores. This way, your kids can also easily ask for your assistance in case they need help with their project.
Make TV Time or Game Night a Family Affair
While limiting screen time is important, there’s room for quality family time in front of the screen. Instead of each family member enjoying individual gadgets, make it a family bonding moment by having movie nights together. Alternatively, if your family is into gaming, have a family gaming session that your kids will remember and truly appreciate. These events not only allow you to monitor the content your child consumes but also strengthen family bonds.
Teach Kids About Digital Literacy
In the digital age, it’s essential to equip your child with digital literacy skills. Teach them how to navigate the online world safely. For instance, teach them how to tell the difference between reliable and unreliable sources. If they are interested in talking about certain issues, freely discuss this with them to help your kids develop their critical thinking. Best of all, emphasize the importance of responsible online citizenship and kindness when interacting with others on social media and online platforms.
Eliminate Screen Time Before Bed
If there’s a time in a day when you definitely need to ban screens, it should be before bedtime. Since children need restful sleep, especially in their development stage, it’s crucial to remove screens and other distractions to ensure smooth sleep transition. To help you achieve this goal, establish a bedtime routine that includes winding down activities like reading a book or practicing relaxation techniques.
Striking a Balance for Healthy Development
Balancing your child’s gadget use at home may seem like a daunting task, but it’s essential for their physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Through different approaches and strategies like the ones mentioned above, you can help your kids take back control and use screens more productively and healthily.
Remember, it’s not about completely eliminating screens from your child’s life; it’s about ensuring that screens serve as tools for learning and entertainment rather than consuming their precious time and potential. As a parent, you have the power to guide your child’s digital journey, helping them grow into responsible and well-rounded individuals in our increasingly digital world.