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This story has been submitted by Abdullah Ansari.
In modern parenting, the issue of screen time has been growing up quite rapidly. Young parents are struggling to find constructive ways to keep their children away from the screen.
Screen addiction in kids has developed to such a level that many parents consider it part-and-parcel of ‘aaj kal kay bachay’ rhetoric. As a result, they simply give up and start hoping that it will go away with time as there is nothing much they can do about it.
I am not a child specialist. However, I have a 4-year-old daughter who has been doing tremendously well when it comes to screen time. I am sharing the following tips based on my personal experience and I am hopeful that it may prove helpful for parents who are finding it tough to detach their kids, glued to the screen all the time.
1. Reduce your own screen time
The first and the toughest part is to discipline yourself if you want to discipline your kids. It’s not something limited to screen time management though as kids, right from the beginning, imitate what they observe. If they see their parents always looking into screens, let it be TV, Tab, cellphone, etc. that’s what they will copy. Try to develop other habits to keep yourself busy. Reading books can be helpful. Family cooking in the kitchen helps a lot too.
Whatever it is, your kids need to see that there are activities to do at home other than don’t involve a screen.
2. Reduce the number of screens at home
You have a phone; your wife has one. Then, there is a big TV in lounge and a smaller one in bedroom. Also, you have a laptop and your wife has one too. In addition, there is a tab too. You really think your kid will be able to keep away from screens when there are so many gadgets around. Don’t you think it’s a bit unfair expectation from little ones? I won’t give my example in this regard as there is no TV at my home, which is kind-of-unthinkable for many (relax, we have laptops.) but still you can reduce the number of screens around. Leaving your laptop at office can be a good idea. Stop using tab completely is a better one.
The point is, the more the number of screens around, the more time your kid will spend in front of it.
3. Turn off the TV when you’re not watching it
Well, this looks quite straight-forward but frankly, it’s alarming how much we are being addicted to news, dramas, etc. Uncountable channels ‘ruthlessly’ running transmissions 24/7 have resulted in a scenario that even dinner time is not spared of a TV running continuously in the background, that too in family get-together parties. The most, hosts will do is to turn off the volume and that really baffles me. Just turn off the damn thing if you are not watching it but somehow, people can’t even digest the food if they don’t watch news/drama along with it.
In turn, it creates an understanding in your kid that you don’t turn on the TV for a specific show, rather, its de facto state is ON and it will be turned off occasionally.
4. Don’t give in to your kids’ demands
If your child is already addicted to the screen and you try to control it now; it’s going to be real tough. It works, more or less, like a drug addict who shows violent behavior once he is admitted to a rehabilitation center. The staff though never gives in to the demands of patients because it is part of treatment. While treating your screen-addict kid, you need to follow the same SOPs, with some customization, obviously. However, if your kid is still very young, I would advise you to use channels like Baby TV with caution. These channels can keep your child busy and engaged for hours but there is a cost to it, and I am not referring to the subscription charges.
From the very beginning, your kid gets so habitual of looking into the screen for hours that it develops into a habit and it causes problems when you try to modify it at a later stage.
5. Don’t blame each other & work as a team
Fathers have a tendency to blame mothers for screen addiction in children. Fathers mostly are breadwinners for their families and they believe that it’s mothers’ responsibility to keep children busy with different activities at home, controlling their screen time. Mothers’ throw counter punch that upbringing of a kid is a mutual responsibility and the arguments go on and on. Don’t get into this fruitless discussion. Rather, work together to find a solution. For example, a father can take vacation for a couple of weeks from his office to ensure their kid is molded into a healthier routine with reduced screen time.
This way, he can help his wife to build up a routine for their child. Possibilities can be endless as long as the focus is pin-pointed.
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