The child with a mobile or a tab is a common scene in many public places we go around. Be it a family dining at a restaurant or wait area in a children hospital or any Public transport. Also, at many households with young child, the feeding times are always coupled with screen time. All these children hooked to a gadget seem to be busy and quiet that helps everyone around.
On the other side, there is a big awareness going on in all social media on how screen time affects the child’s development. Parents, who really wanted to give the best to their child in every aspect, take this screen time exposure a little casual. There is certainly a knowing and doing gap here.
Everyone base their experiences to arrive at their judgements. If you have witnessed any negative results in your child who had been exposed to excessive screen time, then you might understand that technology is not a good fit for your child. On the other hand, if you had a positive or neutral effect, then you might probably conclude that technology isn’t that harmful for the childhood. Let’s try dwelling a bit more on these thoughts.
1. Parent’s claim: “Children learn a lot from the screen time. Especially they learn many words. My child picked up language so easily”
Our observations: Children learn from what they see in their environment. From Infant stage, children observe the lip movements carefully. They feel our jaws when we go close to them while talking. A child who can sit, roll their eyes and keenly watch the conversations that happens at home. This is the natural way a child picks up the language.
These days children mostly keep listening to one-way conversations either the parents on phone or from their passive companion (the screen) talking to them one way. This impacts the language development in the child. We see many children beautifully talk to us but run away without listening to a reply from us.(Non interactive mode). Certainly, these children have not seen people converse much. They have picked up language mostly from seeing one-way communications. We all will definitely agree that this is not as healthy for the child as they child naturally learn language.
2. Parent’s Concern “There are times when my child cannot be patient and quiet. To stop the tantrum, letting him watch something on the screen is the only way out. This gives me my time to work on everything else”
Our Observations: We have had many children crying their heart out during their settling time. Only way to calm them or getting little settled is to get their hands busy. It works quite differently for each child, but we have seen every single child settle well. Work to their hands typically will be age appropriate meaningful activity. A child who is settled by working with hands in the environment will never be seen crying anytime later.
When we yield to child’s cry by letting them get hooked to gadget, it sets as an order in the child. So, the child starts to demand the same with a huge cry. A child who is settled by giving access to gadget will repeat the same tantrum frequently. Our children will not learn to calm themselves or entertain them if we fill their unhappy, angry or boring moments with screen time.
3. Parent’s concern “My child is a poor eater. Only way to feed him is to engage him on a gadget. It is important the child don’t starve. Isn’t it? So, I give only 15 mins screen time just to feed him.”
Our Observations: Yes. It is important that the child is healthy physically. But at the same time, it is important the child is also healthy emotionally and mentally. For a child who is just 2 years now, if you take away the gadget after he is done with eating, he might get distracted into something else. But this same child as he grows into his 3s and 4s, he will demand for the screen time always.
We have seen the same mom complaint of the child for demanding screen time always. We suggest read books or tell stories to engage your little ones to eat.
Also, eating is an important activity. The child should connect with what he eats. So always the healthy practice is to have family dinner time. Involving the child helping you in washing vegetables while cooking or helping you in setting up the dining place will actually encourage the child focus more on the food he eats.
TIPS and Recommendations:
1. It is important the child eats their food knowing what they are eating. As a family rule, please avoid watching television or any form of gadgets while having food. Beware! We are the models for our children.
2. Restricting the screen time gradually will be an effective solution. A maximum of 15 mins screen time is advisable, if required. Even during that time, it is important we sit with our children while they are watching the screen and keep conversing to make it an active companion time.
3. Lengthy advices or reasoning may not appeal to this child who is < 5 years of age. Please give more work for their hands by involving them in household chores that they get diverted positively. 4. Yielding to the child’s cry will not help us anyway. Being firm on our words will actually send a right message to the child. The child will eventually get into the groove. Having said all this, I understand it is not an easy task in front of you. For the hidden damages it might make, it is high time we take up this challenging task. “Hand is a tool of mind” – Engage those little hands in meaningful activities. Happy parenting with lots of laughs and love.