“Screen time” for kids: Thoughts on family-friendly browsing

Preen.ph tackles motherhood sans the rose-tinted glasses. Our columnists L. JulianoMarla DarwinRossana UnsonRonna Capili-Bonifacio, and Chrina Cuna-Henson tell their personal experiences like it is—at times frustrating, oftentimes confusing, but always enlightening.

I’ve had a complicated relationship with technology. Not that I did before I became a mother. Before little bub, I regarded it as a gift. It was an ever-present babysitter I’m pretty sure my mother, a single parent who raised three kids without yayas or helpers, was thankful for. In the advent of floppy disks, Britannica CDs, and gasp, dial up Internet and email (hey, EDSAMail), it saved my life in school. But motherhood happened and the fear of the unknown happened. How am I supposed to raise a healthy, happy, well-rounded child in this crazy century? I let my thumbs, ironically through the help of tech, do the work before I stumbled upon researches and articles upon opinions and vlogs on the dangers of exposing little children to the screen time “monster.”

The quote from an unknown author rings true in describing a human condition: “What we do not understand, we fear. What we fear, we judge as evil. What we judge as evil, we attempt to control. What we cannot control, we attack.” We’re creatures of habit manned by biases, and for first-time moms we depend on the authority of experienced professionals and other parents to guide our decisions. We often let fear from blanket statements get a hold of our better judgement, sometimes prematurely and unsolicitedly share and spread that fear to other moms we feel should be in the know.

Well, I hope this is one thought-piece-slash-listicle from my own experience can serve as a guide to those like me who feel the mom fears (and the mom shaming that comes with them) are aren’t as scary as they seem.

READ MORE: How I developed a healthier relationship with social media

My first advice: Everything in moderation is key. Technology isn’t any different. It’s part of life and will continue to be so, and more so, in the coming centuries. We have this mindset that one day, maybe one day, an apocalypse will finally befall our poor race and any sign of progressive living will be wiped off the planet. Oh dear god, how are we to survive without our go-to sources of entertainment? I get that, and I also get the implications of dependency from too much of something, including screen time. Again, moderation is key. It’s about the information we choose to expose our children to and the values we wish to instill in them through learning and leading by example. These just have to cascade to the activities we involve them in. Understanding our psychology along with the platforms available that we can use as our allies is a good place to start when giving your child reign over their gadgets, with the right limits of course.

Serve every aspect of their health

It starts with the values you want to instill in your child, then situations that can strengthen those values. How do you want your child to grow physically, mentally, and emotionally? Serve these aspects in your child’s day-to-day life and you’ll strike a balance with their activities, including time with gadgets. This includes clear no-gadget schedules and defined tasks to help set a healthy routine that will eventually become natural to, and even beneficial for, your child.

Don’t just say no

The more we use the word “no,” the more we’ll butt heads with our kids. Little ones are naturally curious and have a drive to be independent without completely understanding what we feel should be first-hand knowledge to them. Answer the whys before they ask and offer valid reasons, alternatives, and solutions. They want more candy before bedtime? Get them excited with extra munchies the next day if they finish their vegetable lunch. Are they demanding more screen time? Offer to extend the next time they finish a number of chores.  

Choose wisely

It’s not the gadget, it’s what’s in it. What are the apps you think will help your child grow focused, attentive, independent, intelligent, helpful, and empathetic? Choose apps and shows that are age-appropriate and support their learning goals. Be involved in helping them immerse and absorb the information.

My child is allowed to use her tablet without much restriction, but there are limits that we follow. She’s allowed to watch shows and play interactive games for an hour at night. Daytime is allotted for both structured and unstructured play. Beyond those, and on some occasions, she’s allowed to use her gadget as long as the apps meet certain guidelines:

Don’t reward and enforce negative behavior

As with any reward like treats or gifts, we know we’re not supposed to give them to our kids when they don’t merit them. Gadgets should be treated the same way. When my child used to throw tantrums or display impatience and boredom in public, it was so easy to just distract her with a show and to have our peace. But that wouldn’t do her any good in the long run. We had to stand our ground and let her feel her emotions and she eventually learned to understand us and herself, and behave better. We also avoid gadgets that we know will enforce negative behavior, like in social settings, before sleeping, eating time, and the like. They get very easy to talk to as they grow up. Hang in there, mom.

Allow time for quiet and rest

Nicholas Carr’s book The Shallows: What The Internet Is Doing To Our Brains talks partly about how we’re sacrificing our ability to read and think deeply in the Internet age. Because it’s creating compulsive behavior, we are in a perpetual state of distraction and interruption. This crowds out focused and calm thinking, which is how we learn and connect the learnings in a process called memory consolidation. We have to learn to unplug, calm down, and focus on one thing at a time every day to help repair our minds and support memory consolidation. This goes not just for our kids but for everyone, as well.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in her private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of Preen.ph, or any other entity of the Inquirer Group of Companies.

 

Art by Tricia Guevara

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