Embracing a digital life: Guidelines for parents
Created by Shikha Batra Updated on May 04, 2021
“My children are on screen for their online classes and then for their homework and assignments and then for their free time as well as play, hanging out with friends. So, it’s screen time all the time now!” moans Anuradha, who is the mother to an 8 year and a 12-year-old child.
Under COVID-19, the school has gone online, worries of parents about screen time have gone through the roof, and life is becoming fast digital by default. The new generation of children whom we are raising happens to lead a gadget-driven lifestyle. These gadgets are becoming more of necessities than luxuries for them. There are many reasons why we allow the usage of gadgets to our children such as from using them as pacifiers, staying connected with friends and family emotionally if not physically, as a source of learning and entertainment and so on and so forth.
However, the excessive usage of gadgets may do more harm than good especially for the very reason that screens have replaced positive activities like exercise, socializing and sleep.
Its negative effects may include:
Speech or language delay
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
Neck and shoulder strain
Pain in wrists
Poor sleep patterns
Some rules for gadget usage would include:
Not to park our children in front of gadgets for more than an hour a day for 2 to 5 year olds and definitely no screens before 18 months.
For older children clearly set out digital device usage guidelines in collaboration with them so that they feel a sense of ownership about the rules too. Print them in an agreement that you and your child both can sign.
Make the consequences clear for breaking the rules. Remember the goal is not to punish them but just to set clear boundaries.
Having one digital-free meal together with family members per day as conversations during mealtime help in shaping a child’s social-emotional health. It’s also known to ease out stress for the entire family.
Setting screens aside two hours before bedtime not only makes it easier to fall asleep but also wake up on time as the “blue light” from TV and other gadgets is known to disrupt the natural sleep cycle. Keep digital devices out of the bedroom.
Have a ‘digital detox’ one day a week by making a digital device-free day on that day. Involve them in different activities to keep them productively engaged.
Focus on the content of the media and the context in which they are using gadgets. Have open, honest discussions about what sites and types of content are off-limits and restrict access to it. Also once in a while check out your child’s browser history to see what sites they are visiting.
Teach them digital hygiene and have conversations about how to stay safe online. Encourage them to come to you if they witness cyberbullying or any other issues. Also, teach them how to evaluate the authenticity and accuracy of the information available online.
Last but not least we as parents need to look at our own digital habits. We need to lead our children by example and by being balanced role models who know when to use and when not to use their devices. They are more likely to walk our walk than follow our talk.
Screens have become more embedded in our daily lives than ever before. Therefore, learning how to work with the gadgets in our household wisely is the key. Do remember we all are wading through uncharted waters so we need to go easy on ourselves.