Written by Liza John
Parenting has, is, and will never be an easy task. Parents do often find themselves at their wits ends, trying to discipline their naughty toddlers or trying to deal with teens who want their “freedom and privacy” regardless of the age they live in. But today, parents have a new challenge to deal with, screens.
Visualize a child in the 90s, you’d probably be thinking about a child with a toy in one hand. Similarly, if you were to think of a child in today’s world, you’d probably have a picture of a child casually swiping away at a smartphone screen. Let’s face it, we are living in the age of screens. A vast majority of parents say that parenting today is more difficult than it was 20 years ago.
It is true, parents today struggle to set limits on the use of technology and screen time. A major reason is the lack of role models. We don’t have any sort of reference or any tried and tested strategies from grandpa to help us. This challenge is new, and we must come up with the solutions.
As parents, want to do the best we can for our kids, and so we want to be able to guide them in both the real and virtual world. Teach them how to use technology responsibly in a healthy manner. Here are some basic guidelines to help you set up some boundaries at home and thus be a better parent in the age of screens.
Balance Is Key
Technology is here to stay, with the Covid-19 pandemic, the education sector has welcomed technology through online learning platforms. There are benefits to technology, it helps your kids learn, have fun, connect and be creative.
Conversely, children could access inappropriate content, be exploited, suffer from online bullying and spending too much time in the virtual world could even affect their development. So, what we need is to find the right balance.
You can’t compare your family to another, each family has its own different dynamics, and each has its own unique idea of balance. You understand yours the best, so try to exploit the benefits of tech and at the same time minimize its harm.
Do not overlook the signs of unhealthy tech usage. If you face harsh resistance or tantrums when you try to limit your child’s tech usage, it may be a sign of unhealthy usage of technology. Similarly, unhealthy usage of electronic devices may affect your child’s academics, sleep, or social skills.
Be A Good Role Model
Children always look up to their parents; they try to imitate you in anything you do. Your child is observing you even when you think they aren’t. So, it’s natural that they try to copy your technology habits as well. So, the next time you pick up to check your phones, or think of binge-watching your favourite show, or work late on your laptops, remember that you are also having an impact on your child’s tech habits.
You can start by setting up work-life boundaries. Disconnect from the rest during family dinners or vacations. Similarly, don’t fiddle on your electronic gadgets as soon as you enter home from work, or when your kids come home after school or when they are leaving for school.
Use tech responsibly. Never call or text while you are driving, or don’t immerse yourself in a screen when you are out on a walk. Let that work call wait until you finish whatever it is that you are doing with your family unless it is an emergency.
Keep Your Phones Away from Babies Under 2
Do not use technology to distract your baby while you attend to some work. Keep your tech away from your baby as much as possible, at least until they are two.
A major chunk of your baby’s emotional, social, linguistic, and behavioural development occurs within the first three years of their life. During this period, it is necessary that you let them have real life interactions as much as possible rather than tapping or swiping at a virtual screen.
You can introduce them to tech once they grow a bit. Once your child is at least two, you can maybe allow a maximum of an hour of screen time.
Keep Your Devices Safe
Your child might accidentally delete important data from your devices or post personally identifiable or inappropriate stuff on your socials. So, it is necessary that you set up passwords for all your devices and have parental controls on if your child is using it.