Sometimes we look at our children like they’re digital prisoners – eyes, mind, and hands chained to their tiny screens. But screen time isn’t all that bad, it’s our relationship with the screens that matter. Don’t let your child’s screen time cause you to experience parenting anxiety.
The digital parent anxiety
As parents who are raising digital natives, we know that our child’s screen time can be a major source of anxiety and frustration. We worry that our children will become obsessed and addicted to the screens. We worry that they won’t spend enough time with their family or friends. We worry that they may only come to know of a world in cyberspace.
Other times, we may feel guilty of our own device use. After all, our own device use may have inspired our children’s use. Sometimes we think to ourselves, “I wish I hadn’t used my phone so often in front of my daughter/son”, because what do you know? Now they do it all the time – from the car rides back home from school, to the dinner tables, and even to the toilets!
While some children’s screen time is more alarming than others, it’s also best to remember that screen time isn’t inherently bad. Children, like us, spend their time on the screen for various reasons. From doing their homework to entertainment purposes, the screens serve great purposes for us. So instead of cutting the screens out totally, what we could do instead is regulate it and negotiate with our children how long they want/need to spend on the screen.
Setting the ground rules
I once asked my 8-year old who would spend hours a day staring at her tiny screen, “what do you like to do online?” She responded with a shrug and the typical, “nothing much. I just like watching dog videos.” Dog video after dog video? Sure, I like a dog video or two myself, especially those adorable ones where mums let their babies sleep with their dogs. But she can’t possibly go on spending hours on end like this, it’s inane. I sat my 8-year old down and asked, “how many dog videos do you actually really like?” She replied, “maybe 2”. I told her we’ll be limiting her to 2 dog videos a day.
Of course, you can imagine the protestations, the whining, the questioning. But I asked her, “wouldn’t you prefer to see an actual dog? Wouldn’t you rather go to the park?” I then continued to explain to her about all that she’s missing out on when she’s staring at a screen. By the time I was done, she agreed, “okay, 2 dog videos a day”. Negotiation and practical reasoning work well with children. The key to this is to inform them why limiting and managing their screen time is important, and letting them have a say in these rules. Since it’s their screen time, it’s important they take ownership of it and have the independence to decide how much time is too much time on the screens. However, bear in mind that a healthy dose of screen time depends on their age. For instance, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), children aged 3 to 4 years old should not be given more than 1 hour of screen time.
The screen isn’t all that mean
Child screen time is just something that we parents need to accept – the world is changing digitally, and so are our children. It is therefore necessary that we teach them the importance of cultivating a healthy and responsible relationship between them and the screen. The planoApp can help you do just that. The app runs in the background of your child’s phone, and reminds your child to take a break every 30 minutes from the screen. It also allows you, as the parent, to set no-device time zones for your child so that he/she can participate in family activities device-free!