“Mumma my neck will break,” said my little girl lying in my lap. It was horrendous, dreadful and alarming at the same time. Thousands of questions ran into my mind but it wasn’t long before I figured that she was imagining a scene from her favorite cartoon show where the super kid fights the demons. What I also knew was that it’s time to put her off the electronic devices.
One of the major concerns of millennial parents is too much exposure of the digital devices to our kids. I am sure we all decide to put a limitation on our kids’ screen time. I too put a 30 min limit but only in my head. Often, it didn’t work that way. At least not for me and my kiddo. I didn’t even realize and it was already an hour of screen time, and then another hour of struggle to get the phone/TV being switched off. The end result was a more frustrated and sad kid. That’s when I realized that the 30mins of TV/phone was a sham. What my daughter really needed was a digital detox.
By exposing them to the digital devices at such a tender age, will only hamper their brain development. They need the exposure of the real world rather than the virtual world.
Why digital detoxification for kids (or anyone) is important:
It may look cute and exciting when tiny fingers scroll through the photos on a device, or open a video in youtube. But by exposing them to these devices at such a tender age, will only hamper their brain development. They need the exposure of the real world rather than the virtual world. Too much screen time will limit their chances of being creative. Screen overuse results in several physical, emotional and behavioral issues such as lack of confidence, sleep difficulties or difficulty socializing.
Creating a screen-free environment:
With a little resistant in the beginning, it wasn’t as difficult as I thought it to be. Consistency and discipline were the keys. Following the below steps patiently and firmly, it took only a couple of days for my daughter to adjust to them well. Why don’t you try them to see how it works:
- Set an example yourself: Kids follow what they observe rather than what they hear. Along with the children the parents need to be on digital detox too, at least in front of the kids. Because it isn’t fair to ask them to turn off the TV or put away with the IPad when we ourselves are fiddling with the phones.
- Storytime: Stack the house with age-appropriate books. Read them to your kids or help them read it. Unleash your creativity and tell them stories. My daughter puts me through extempore story sessions daily. It could be her toys, anything in the kitchen or even a picture.
- Go outdoors: Play outdoor games. Take the kid to a play park. Enjoy nature. Go for a picnic. Tell them about the possible flora and fauna around. Could be any outdoor activity that suits the kids and your family
- Opt for other non-screen oriented activities: When the weather outside is unpleasant, think of some screen independent indoor activities. Something like dancing or painting or even as simple as making paper planes and boats. Or why don’t you try doing some Zumba or aerobics together, it will be like killing two birds with one stone.
- Mealtimes’ equals family time and not screen time: I know how hard it is to feed these little fuzzy eaters. But by feeding them with the aid of screen time, we are doing much harm than good. Not only during the course of digital detox but even after, ensure mealtimes are only about family bonding. Talking, discussing the day, and telling stories, anything or everything that does not include screens.
- Keep separate devices for work and entertainment: Let us be honest. We live in a digital age. Our homes are full of digital devices and our personal as well as professional lives depend a lot on these gadgets. Sometimes it’s difficult or rather impossible for the parents to completely avoid these devices. So it’s important to keep a separate device for work. For example, my little one understands that mumma and dadda work on the laptop. While phone and TV are for leisure.
- Socialize often: Invite a friend over. Visit your kids’ friends’ place. Teach them to socialize while outdoors, in the play park etc. This way they can learn to socialize and be engaged at the same time. However, don’t overdo it if your child shows extreme stranger anxiety.
- Limit the screen time post the detoxification: After following complete digital detoxification for at least a week, or more days, it is important that you continue with a limited screen time post the detox too. Don’t let the hard work go in vain.
So did it really work? Indeed, worked like a charm.
The little one is more disciplined now. After the 10 days detoxification, she hardly demands for screen time. Even if she does, she will switch them off on her own after 15-20 minutes. “Mumma tell me a story”, is what I hear all the time. Stories are now an indispensable part of her day. She dances more; she reads more, experiments with color, comes up with stories and recites rhymes. Find out what suits your child, be consistent and the results will follow. Happy parenting. J
I would love to hear your take on limiting screen time for kids. Will also be happy to know what activities you follow to engage the kids.
This post was previously published here