From removing the TV viewing card from the set-top box to blocking apps on our smart phones, from baking cakes and cookies to planting flowers in our garden, we do all we can to keep our two children, aged eight and five years old, off the glowing screens. It’s for this very reason that we don’t have a laptop, a video game console or a ‘smart’ TV or any of those types of devices that can lead to our children spending more time in front of screens — even if that means compromising on some of our needs and desires and sacrificing some comfort at the weekends. Why in the face of this technology-driven era are we so scared of glowing screens?
In a world where tablet-based narration and cartoons are replacing books and bedtime stories, it’s important for parents to take such guidelines seriously and inculcate among our young generations healthy screen habits from a very early stage. This can be achieved by making changes at home as a first step. Even simple steps such as keeping screens out of bedroom, banning devices at meal-times, spending quality family time together and engaging children with bedtime storytelling, or playing games such as hide-and-seek, dump charades, musical chairs and so on, can help parents reduce children’s screen-time considerably.
In a short span of time, her children started showing a lack of interest in outdoor activities as well as signs of de-socialisation, irritation and fatigue in day-to-day life. This, in turn, began to affect their studies, their personalities, their health and even their way of living. As they became technology-addicted and their cravings for the screen grew, their studies receded into the background and their lives started to revolve less around family activities and more around the digitised world – to the point that even something as simple as sitting down together for a meal became a rarity in their home.
That’s why when it comes to children, parents, especially those with young ones, should know that technology-addiction is one of those things for which prevention is better than cure. Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) in its first-ever guidelines on “screen time and children” recommended that infants under the age of one shouldn’t be allowed any screen time at all, while for those under five years of age, two hours of physical activity, plenty of sleep and no more than one hour of screen time (a day) is recommended.
The children themselves live in a spotlight of their own creation with social media, thus, magnifying everything from success to rejection by broadcasting it to everyone else. And then there are those who will put it down to the amount of chemicals we have in our air and our water and the radiations emitted by cellphone towers. None of this makes sense to the parents of a child who is cutting himself /herself in order to break through the numbness and into some form of feeling. None of this comforts parents who are sitting outside a psychiatrist’s office and looking at their first prescription for tranquilisers. It’s easy in hindsight to blame the parents. You put pressure on the child and so he/she cracked because he/she could not live up to your expectations. You didn’t put pressure on the child and so he/she thinks he/she is entitled to a good life without having to work for it.
The problem is the uniqueness of the parents, the uniqueness of the child, and the resultant uniqueness of the bond between them. And finally, there’s just plain luck. Some kids get through, some kids fall through. But the whole edifice of the parenting industry, which is built on guilt would collapse if we admit that every parent is flying by the seat of her pants into a fog without enough fuel. It seems as if they have been set an impossible task. They must enjoy what they have and must strive to overcome it. They must live in the moment and must keep an eye on the future.
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)