How much screen time is considered too much screen time? Experts agree that children should spend a maximum of 2 hours max in a day to technology devices and no screen time for children below 2. But times have evolved and it’s hard (not impossible) not to expose them to such. If you’ve been on Facebook recently, you would have been reading up that even Steve Jobs restricted prolonged usage of such devices on his own children.
Honestly, too much and it hurts their eyes, gets them addicted and they will be consumed by the digital world so much that you can say good bye to the cute little munchkin who now refuses to spend more time with you. I’ve known of some children who are addicted to their devices and some wouldn’t even have their meals without their iPads. If they don’t get what they want, expect a massive meltdown. Most parents usually give in because they want to avoid the situation altogether in the public. It is never too late to step in and guide the child all over again, but if you are a new mom looking on ways to cope with your child first steps into the technology world, here are a few tips from me:
1. Introducing the Gadgets
The first time Charley actually played on the iPad was when she was 18 months. At that time, we were taking a holiday and I needed something new/ fresh to take her attention on takeoff and landing that I introduced the iPad to her. New toy with brightly lited screen captured her attention well then. When we came back from the trip, she did not ask for the iPad nor play on it. Later on, she learnt that she could take photographs with my mobile and she started snapping away. No much harm done here.
Sometime around mid last year, I’ve re-introduced the iPad as I badly needed some me-time as I was expecting then (that pregnancy did not work out but it’s all good now). The fatigue from pregnancy was really extreme and she was about 2 years old then? I gave in to gadgets so I could sneak in a 15-20 minutes rest time sitting beside her.
I would recommend delaying the introduction of gadgets for as long as you can. The later they are introduced, the lesser chances of getting addicted as they know of other fun activities that could entertain them. There is no right or wrong here but as they grow older, they will also be more willing to listen to instructions.
2. Limit Screen time / Time management
My comfortable timing for her to use the gadgets are as follow:
- Mobile Phones 15-20 mins
- iPad maximum of 30 mins
- TV – up to 1.5 hours (especially on stay home Sat Movies)
When the time is about to reach, give the child allowances and reminders that it is time to stop soon. For eg, I would highlight to Charley that she’s left with two more songs, and then one more song before she has to handover the iPad. She also understands that this device does not belong to her. So whenever Daddy needs it (it belongs to me actually, but Daddy uses it most of the time now), she will stop to return it.
On good days, she will actually stop playing almost immediately before the reminders, I guess she’s sick of playing already or she wants to do something else. On bad days, she will not hesitate to give me a really unhappy stick-out-your-jaw face and throws a small tantrum. But even so, she doesn’t get what she wants. Now that she’s going 3 yo, she has also learnt to negotiate for one – two more games before the handover. I would usually give in, she’s too cute when she does that.
If your kiddo is the stubborn kind, you could try to offer the iPad only when the battery is able to drain out. That way, you won’t be lying when you say that the ‘iPad has run out of battery’.
3. Screen the content
If your kid wants to play the iPad, why not make it more educational for them? There are plenty of free apps that teaches the child through play and even more paid apps that are super interactive, if you’re willing to burst your pockets for these apps. Some of these paid apps looks so fun even to me that it can be quite challenging for me not to click on it. So far, I’ve only paid for one app which is rather costly since I purchased the whole bundle pack (I know right). It is a phonics app and it has been ‘well depreciated’ through her plays and it will be further utilize when baby brother is out. Yes, I am aunty like that.
The only app I am more wary about is Youtube. Of course, you should have opt for PG rated videos by now. I have a love-hate relationship with Youtube because while it has millions of good videos, there are also junk videos that are mindless to children. Unfortunately, Charley saw one of them and the colours were so attractive in it that she would definitely request to watch those first than the good old nursery rhymes. You know those nonstop videos of surprise toy eggs that opens up to a gazillion other small toys in it? Yep, that’s my worse fear. I shall take some free time to flag those down!
Most of the time, I would sit and watch with her, so that I know what she’s watching and if the content is not appropriate, we would skip it and go for something else. There are also a few cartoons which we do not watch because they are silently fix with grown-up humour or portrays rude children behaviour. One may argue that it’s just a cartoon, but children pick up bad habits faster than they pick up good ones. If the cartoon has a character that constantly throw tantrums and stomps away when she doesn’t get what she wants, you can be sure one day your sweetie pie is going to do that.
4. Lead by example
If I have some time when Daddy and Charley are having their playtime, I would usually be on my laptop to unwind on some dramas or to do work. Charley understands that my laptop is for work; although she also knows that this laptop could play Youtube and Movies but she seldom requests for it.
We do not advocate gadgets during meal times and we would hardly be caught doing that in front of her. In fact, meals will be eaten together as a family and gadgets will only be made available after she’s done with food. Of course, I am in no way an angel parent and it is pretty hard for me not to be on these devices myself. How could I not be watching dramas or varieties while having lunch at home? Well, I would only do that when she’s in school. When we are on train rides, I would encourage her to watch the views. For longer journeys we would try to play some games (when she was younger) by playing ‘I spy with my little eye’. This game could go on forever. On our return journey, I would offer her to play on the mobile with limited screen time if she’s been a good girl for the entire day we were out.
The above worked for us but every child is different and I hope that you’ve managed to find the approach that best work for you. Learning is best in my opinion by going to the outdoors or through doing craft work, or even housework. If heading out is an issue on rainy weathers, opt for waterplay at home in the tub with a couple of different sizes plastic cups (readily available in kitchen) or flour in the kitchen (we let her play with that while we handmade mee hoon kuey for lunch on some weekend, messier but it’s okay because Daddy is cleaning this one up). Choose to keep them entertain with other materials before offering the iPad as your only solution. Or let them enjoy free playboy their own and enhance their imaginative play on their own. In that, they will be more willing to let go of those devices and enjoy other activities with you.
I hope the above helps you in some ways. 🙂 Good luck Mamas & Papas!