As parents, we have all been troubled with our children’s involvement in screens. Honestly, screen time has been indispensable in this era of the pandemic as all schooling and other related activities are held on the Internet. We understand that too much indulgence in screens can cause many physical, and mental problems for the kids. But, in analyzing this drawback, we often end up ignoring the positive side of screens and screen time.
In this article, we attempt to guide you on the positive usage of screens and good screen time. As we dive in, we will also answer the most sought-after questions of parents regarding screen time - What is a good daily screen time average for children? How to tell between good and bad screen time? How to promote healthy screen time?
The article also consists of some online activities that can be included in your child’s daily schedule, to ensure that they spend their screen time productively.
Ezyschooling conducted a panel discussion on ‘Positive Screen Time: How much screen time is good for kids and how it should be spent?’, in association with fREADom Live Online English Classes. The panel discussion had the following esteemed panelists-
● Dr. Mala Kapoor, Founder and Director - Principal at Silverline Prestige School
● Mr. Sarabjit Singh Chandhok, Principal at Sky Valley International School
● Dr. Bhavna Chibber, Vice-Principal at Gurugram Global Heights School
● Mrs. Maya Sukumaran, Principal at Gitanjali School
● Mr. Amrutash Misra, the SVP of Growth at fREADom
Thanks to online schooling, kids now spend most of their time staring at screens. As classes, assignments and even hanging out with friends have shifted online, children find it hard to spend time outside of their screens. However, it’s all well and good till they make judicious use of the screens.
Trouble begins when they start over-using their screens, be it for play or watching movies online. As Sarabjit Sir pointed out, there are few instances of children that overuse screens for their personal interest and end up blaming their schools when parents question the overindulgence. Hence, it becomes important for parents to supervise the judicial screen use of their children. It also becomes necessary to set some ground rules for screen usage.
Excess of anything is harmful to every being. Over-indulgence in screens is a good example of this. This has often led parents into wondering what is a good daily screen time average for their kids. Now, there have been many tentative answers to this question. But who better to believe than the WHO? As pointed out by Bhavna Ma’am, the World Health Organization has released certain guidelines regarding the exposure to screens for children of different ages.
According to their guidelines, a child between 3-5 years of age should not be allowed to use screens for more than an hour a day. Similarly, for children between 6-10 years of age, the maximum screen time is just 1-2 hours a day. Likewise, children between the age group of 11-13 should not resort to screens for more than 3-4 hours a day.
As for the children who are older than 13 years, they are considered mature enough to take this decision for themselves. As growing individuals, these children are aware of the negative impacts of over-indulgence in screens and hence, should be able to set the bar for themselves.
Talking about toddlers, Maya Ma’am has rightly pointed out that exposing children of up to one and a half years of age to screen time is never the answer. Letting them watch cartoons online or play games on the phone to keep them occupied is not justified.
There are always two sides to a coin. All things and concepts have certain advantages as well as certain disadvantages. Thus, it is only right that we take both sides into consideration, without dismissing something just by looking at its bad side.
Sarabjit Sir mentioned that screen time does not essentially have to be bad for the child. Take online classes and courses for example. Children are now being educated on the Internet. As we go about our day-to-day routines, children are just getting more and more tech-savvy through their experiences online. There are many courses available online that, if opted for, can help children prepare for different exams. Several other courses are also available to help them develop their skills in different fields like dancing, singing, writing, robotics, etc.
As the positive effects of the digital world have been made accessible to kids, they are now able to work on developing self-sustaining skills as well. Even social media presence has given them a space to share their opinions and simultaneously develop their public speaking skills. Making videos on YouTube is one great example of this. Putting their points across so early on in life makes them mature enough to take important entrepreneurial decisions.
As Mala Ma’am said, children need opportunities. And technology can be the right way to provide kids with the opportunities to explore and develop themselves. Also, we need to remember that digital experiences acquired within certain restrictions always play out to be beneficial. So set ground rules and supervise their screen time. You will soon start observing the positive effects of screen time.
When it comes to indulging kids in positive screen time, fREADom is one product that must be applauded for guiding kids on the right path. fREADom is a digital learning platform aimed mostly at children aged between 3-12.
The core team at fREADom has put in more than 10 years of pedagogic research, decoding their customers and their needs.
Introduced to us by Amrutash Sir, as a part of their initiative of making English proficiency easier for children, fREADom was launched in 2016 to strengthen kids’ reading, writing and conversational skills. fREADom also provides live online group classes, live 1:1 classes, a blog and even a YouTube channel to make learning fun and also indulge children in positive screen time.
As mentioned earlier, parents need to deal with the negative effects of screens with some positive screen time. As Bhavna ma’am rightly points out, supervision is an essential role of the parent to help ensure positive screen time for children.
Here’s how you can incorporate some positive screen time into their daily routines, apart from their online classes:
● Introduce children to fun documentaries and quiz shows. Make sure that the content is only slightly harder than what they are used to, as mentioned by Amrutash Sir, to facilitate learning in children.
● Ask them questions or talk to them about interesting concepts like black holes, or even why the sky is a certain color. This will compel them to research these topics and they will end up acquiring valuable information.
● Get them enrolled on kid-friendly online learning platforms that will help them brush up their talents and hobbies. For instance, you can try out fREADom University, where children are mentored on their public speaking skills and encouraged to Take the Stage.
● Sit down with your children to watch their favorite show or movie or watch yours with them. This can be a great family bonding exercise, with a hint of nostalgia for you, while also helping them get a hand at lessons portrayed through the movie/show.
Now that we have learnt about good screen time, it is necessary to understand that we shouldn’t end up removing all restrictions on our children regarding screen time. Even with the positive effects, it is essential to restrict screen time usage in children as it can cause them several problems in their physical and mental well-being.
It is often seen that restricting children on certain subjects or experiences makes them feel resentful towards their parents. But we don’t want that, do we? As Mala ma’am mentions, as good parents, we have to be creative. We have to think of creative measures to restrict screen time for children, without making it seem like a decision forced on them.
Here’s how parents can set down some restrictions on screen time without harnessing any resentment in their kids:
It is important to sit your child down and have a talk about screen time. Take care to not make it seem like a punishment, but a regular conversation. Speak about why an excess of it is harmful, the dreadful effects and the importance of controlled exposure to screens, be it for children or adults.
Children are always very likely to model their parents’ behavior. So, it becomes important that you lead by example. Do not indulge in excess screen time yourself to inspire them to do the same. Remember that they follow you closely, and act in that regard.
Set out an hour or two in the day, when the entire family takes a break from screens. You can all sit down together for fun activities, or even some old nostalgic talks. It will help to increase the family bonding while also giving everyone a much-needed break from their screens.
Introduce them to fun substitutes to help spend their time outside of screens. Introduce them to fun board games and outdoor activities. Introduce them to games that you played as kids. Remember, as Maya Ma’am says, children love screen time, but the next thing that they love is playtime.