Before we get into the session I would just like to give a small introduction about what Ezyschooling is a unique tech multi-utility platform for parents and schools, aiming at facilitating them relevant information about admissions and news events along with the aspects of parenting. In the last few years, Ezyschooling has helped over 12,000 parents and 100+ schools in the admission process by facilitating them with a tech-enabled support system. It’s a tech-based world and everything is made easier. So, Ezyschooling, in general, just aims in helping parents and school make this entire hassle of the admission process way easier, not only in aspects of school but also in aspects of parenting, what they need, new parents etc. And we also take the help of professionals like you and others who will help us grow to become a better platform.
We would like to know a little bit about you.
By profession, I am a dentist and earlier I was working as a research officer at AIIMS. Then, I was blessed with a two-and-a-half-year-old son. Then, I realized that being a doctor, I was not well aware of the challenges that a new parent faces. So I just came to know about it, especially the challenges which a new mother faces. That’s why I just decided to reach out to many mothers out there that I can help and also to parents. That’s why I created a community on Facebook where all parents can connect with each other and they can discuss their problems and I can share my experience with them. And I am a certified parent coach too. I had a lot of methods in my mind but I just wanted to read about research bases or facts. So I did a certification just to know how it is important to change the parenting styles in the current scenario to deal with your kids. So this is what my parenthood is all about- just learning from other people and sharing my experiences to help them.
What exactly is digital parenting?
These are changing times. Digital media has become a necessity for all of us, whether it is in terms of communication, or solving our problems, even for entertainment purposes. Especially if we keep in mind the current scenario of the pandemic, kids have become regular users of televisions, laptops and mobile phones. It is very easily accessible to them whether it is for academic purposes or entertainment purposes. But this engagement of kids in digital media poses a lot of challenges for the parents. As I said, there is another side of the coin also.
Digital parenting is all about the efforts and practices by which you can monitor your child’s activity in this digital world- what things basically you can keep in your mind and follow. Even supporting, regulating, monitoring; it involves everything. It is the current scenario of digital parenting.
How can the parents regulate how children are using these devices?
Parents play a very important role in this scenario, especially the pandemic scenario. Here are some quick tips for the parents. These tips are not only for parents but everyone.
The first thing is- talk. Have an open-ended conversation with your kid, whether he/she is a toddler, a mid-schooler or a teen. Just talk to them about what they like watching on television, what are they studying in their online classes, what are the games or apps which they play or search for throughout the day. So it is very important for every parent to talk to them. And it is also very important to make them aware of the benefits as well as the dangers and risks of digital media, especially in terms of teens and mid-schoolers. As an adult, we all know the risks involving digital media, especially on the social websites. It is very important that we should make our kids aware of the same. For example, you should not share your personal information on the Internet and you should not share your passwords on the Internet.
Secondly, it is very important that you should have some parental control over the activities of your kids. For example, you can always block or filter the content that you don’t want your kids to see. You can always have a lock over the apps in your phone which you don’t want your kids to see, or which are not child-appropriate. For instance, phones are easily accessible to toddlers. My son can just take my phone, he can easily access it. And you never know what is present inside your phone in the gallery section which your child can access and what impact it can have on your child. So it is very important to put locks child.
The third important thing is that you have to educate yourself. With the changing technology, we, as parents, have to educate ourselves. Because, if we will not know about it then there’s no point in conversing with our kids. It is very important that you can ask your kids to teach you. That’s a very great option by which you can connect with your kids. Sharing is the key. If you will share with them then only they will share with you.
And the last thing, you have to be a great digital model. I firmly believe in that. Kids are great imitators. They tend to follow whatever you do. There are certain preset rules, especially for teenagers to tell them what are the appropriate things that they can do online, what stuff they can download, what are the timings for which they can be online. So, just give them preset rules that will make things very simpler for parents as well as for the child.
Do you have any recommendations for exposure to digital media?
In terms of exposure to screentime, different organizations have given a lot of guidelines. If we take guidelines from the World Health Organisation or American Academy of Pediatrics, they recommend that kids below 2 years of age should not be exposed to screens in any form. After, 2 years, in the bracket of 2-3 years, they say that kids can be exposed to screens for 1 hour. And screen time includes everything- whether it is TV, laptops or phones, that too under the supervision of an adult. For kids above 5 years, the time is 2 hours. You will be amazed to know that for everyone above 5 years it is 2 hours. Even for us, it is 2 hours only.
For kids who are older, it is very difficult for them to decide and even for parents to interfere. But a time period can be set for them that for this much time only screentime is allowed. But for young kids, we have to make sure that these timelines are followed.
Should these timelines be from certified websites like you mentioned?
Definitely. A lot of research is also going on. In the current research, they said that kids exposed to screen time can face a lot of effect on their brain, especially for kids below 2 years. It’s better to introduce them to screen time after 2 years of age. But the less, the better.
Everyone’s obsessed with online games these days. Kids are obsessed with these games for hours and hours.
How do you think parents should deal with that?
Talking about the current scenario, this has become very regular for all the kids as a basic source of entertainment. If I talk about research, video games have a lot of effects also but then the excess of everything is very bad also. They say that it helps kids in developing problem-solving skills, their hand-eye co-ordination, but then if the quality of games selected for the kids is appropriate, especially, age-appropriate.
I want to mention one thing here that kids indulge in a lot of 3D video games. These 3D video games have a lot of effects on their brain and brain ways. I have seen and read a lot of researches that say that these kids become aggressive and anxious also. So, you can control them but you can also expose them to good games, maybe 2D games, logical games, puzzles etc. They should play games that stabilize their mind and not make them totally merge into the game. Because, when the kids get totally merged they don’t know what is happening around them. So, the only thing that I will suggest to all the parents is- just keep a check over the quality of games, check whether it is appropriate for their age or not and try to involve them in some kinds of games that are educational, 2 D and logical-based, and then you have to set a time limit for it. You have to engage them in other activities also.
One more thing I have to tell you is that for kids below 12 years it is recommended that 3 D games cannot be allowed. So parents can just try that if they haven’t infused yet they should just try to delay it.
Do you have any opinion on how to reduce the exposure and the risk of screen time?
There are a few guidelines but I will say a few rules that we can follow. These are also set by a few of the organizations and eye specialists also have given these opinions. So as I have mentioned earlier, we have to set certain time limits.
Secondly, whenever your child is being exposed to the screen it is always recommended that the distance of rule of followed. That is, the distance between the screen and the person who is watching it should be 5 times the size of the screen. That is the safe distance that kids can sit and watch something. Sometimes it may not be possible because 5 times is too much so, a minimum of 2 and a half the size should be maintained. You should also not let them watch in the dark because it can affect their eyes. The light of the room should be 3 times the light of the screen that they are watching on. These are some things that we personally don’t keep in mind while viewing television but these are very important points.
The third thing that I would like to mention is that in the current scenario, children are having lots of online classes. So, I would just recommend that you should give some kinds of protective glasses for your kids to wear. These days there are some screen protectors also that are available to protect from this harmful blue light that gets emitted from the screen. I came across some phones that have a feature of screen protection buttons. You can use them to protect your kid from harmful rays. So, these are points that you can follow for your kids and for yourself as well.
In this entire aspect of digital parenting, how do you think the role of a family can play in it?
Family can play a very important role. The most important role is supervision. Talking about toddlers, what the child is doing throughout the day should be supervised, basically in terms of screen and what he/she is being exposed to. As a family, everyone can sit together and discuss if they ever notice the negative behaviour of the child.
Talking about teens, if they are not behaving properly and there are some things that are bothering them, such things should be pointed out and should be discussed among the family. And then, the family has to be the digital model. They all have to follow the rules that they set for their kids because kids are great imitators. They are going to do what you do. Even for teens, if you are not going to follow those rules, they are going to follow you. That stage is also very difficult to follow. So, being a family, all together, should sit together and decide what rules you are deciding for your kids. Everybody should be aware of that. Also, everybody has to follow the same thing. Everyone has to be on the same page and also supervise and then also be a great role model.
What advice would you like to give all the parents watching you and even if there are students here in the entire aspect of digital parenting?
I would just like to say that digital media is the call of all. You cannot make your kids stay away from it. It is also important to teach them about it. Because this is the next thing which is coming up. All of us are online right now and the world is running on this. So you cannot make them stay away from it.
Also, it is important for you to teach them about the benefits of it. Just expose them to the things which can help them out in improving themselves. On the other hand, just make them aware of the dangerous factors and the risks factors and online factors, cyberbullying,, video game addiction, etc. You have to sit and consciously react to each and every situation and decide a set of rules for them and you also have to follow them.
I would just like to end it with an amazing thought which I read yesterday only. There is the cybercrime specialist who said that I trust my son but I don’t trust those 3 million people who are in connection with him through this online platform. So we all trust our kids but we never know what is coming up for them. So we all have protected them in terms of digital media. So everything has pros and cons but then we have to look at the other side of it also.