The World Health Organization said in one of their new guidelines that children under 1 year old should not be exposed to electronic gadgets and that children age 2 -4 years old should not have more than an hour of “sedentary screen time” each day.
I’m telling you my children are nowhere in this category. Their screen time is almost every.single.time.of.the.day.
Technology has helped us in so many ways. Our lives are easier now. Things are more convenient. With these breakthroughs, we were able to transact a few tasks at home like paying bills. Sourcing information has never been this easy, too.
However, as we thrive to betterness, we become more dependent on a “Wall-E” type of environment. We, therefore, have less human interaction. We acquire a sedentary lifestyle. And, when we become like this, our children will follow. Although there are more advantages than disadvantages, one cannot simply brush off this epidemic issue: Are our children becoming screen slaves?
When I asked a few parents about this topic, a few questions arose:
– What can we do to minimize screen time?
– Should we stop them from using gadgets altogether?
– Are they really going to suffer from a brain or neuro problems?
And, the questions go on.
Most of us here in Manila Bulletin are parents too, who have been experiencing the same predicament. So, allow us to share with you a few activities or chores we can ask our children to do to reduce screen time.
- Play outside or play board games
Studies show that more children nowadays are susceptible to obesity, bad eyesight, or having cancer due to a lack of Vitamin D and exercise. Sunlight is a great source of Vitamin D. Therefore, allow them to play outside during weekends. Not only will they get a dose of sunlight, but it will also help improve their social and human interaction skills.
Oh, board games, are the best! Invest in buying learning board games like Life, Monopoly, Operation, Puzzles, and more! These games will develop their attitude and behavior. Monopoly brings out their entrepreneurial skills, while Operation is about human anatomy and puzzles for patience. Life, on the other hand, will teach them about life itself. For instance, choosing the right school, marriage, children, and more.
You may play with them during weekends or before dinner on weekdays. If both parents have work, you can do this on your days off from work. Diligence is key.
- Gardening or planting at home
A recent study concluded that spending more time in the greenery such as farm or garden imposes longevity. This is due to the fact, we are calmer and inhales fresh air. Aside from its nutritional value, you will learn to be more mindful for the environment.
As such, we joined a community-led farm tour organized by Refill ‘N Beyond called the “Green Trip.” We went to Gourmet Farms, wherein we met a Bearcat (known for its Civet coffee), lettuce plantation, and their Coffee and Book Club! Children are also welcome to attend the book club! We also went to Patawe gardens, wherein we learned different plants we can easily use at home.
We’ve applied what we’ve learned from the tour at home. So, now the kids are more excited to check their real plants than their game “Plants vs Zombies.”
Personally, farm or educational tours are usually tiring. When kids are exhausted from the outdoor activities, they won’t have any time to play gadgets. It may be tiring physically or financially draining, but the reward is for a lifetime.
- Get crafty!
Do you have special occasions to attend to? Let your children get crafty! Instead of buying expensive Hallmark cards, stimulate their imagination by getting crafty! Provide coloring sheets, papers, or old folders/cartons, and crayons. Let them make greeting cards for upcoming holidays or birthdays.
- Teach them green principles
Teach them how to recycle and upcycle non-biodegradable items. Educate them about the importance of waste segregation or waste management. Eco-bricking is one of the things you can do at home.
- Let them do a few household chores
Instead of using the household chores as a punishment, educate them about it. Tell them that by washing the dishes or sweeping the floor, they will grow more responsible and more sensitive to the people around them. Explain that no one is going to clean up after them, except themselves. This way, they will think of the household chores as a necessity rather than a punishment. Furthermore, it will teach them independence.
Perhaps, you can plan out the week with your children, who will be responsible for washing the dishes, sweeping the floor, changing the sheets, and more. During your days off and if you have a car, washing it could be a great bonding for you and your child/ren. Let them learn how to clean fans, shoes, and even the AC! There’s a lot of exciting things to do at home, so to speak.
- Teach them how to cook
This activity is for children 10 years old and up. Although, I learned to cook eggs when I was 6! Teach them how to cook basic food like eggs, hotdogs, and rice. This will tremendously help minimize their screen time. But always monitor and inform them about fire hazards, gas, and alike.
Kids nowadays are more independent. A child psychologist shared with me that they feel “safe” when they play games. They also use it against parents who are always too busy working or too busy to notice them. Therefore, set a playtime with them every day. It could be before dinner or the whole time on weekends. If we are gifted to be at home earlier than usual, we play a game after or while waiting for dinner called “3 things” wherein one must give three things s/he grateful for and three things s/he would like to improve on. This way, we would know if our children are already suffering from something. Usually, we often catch them struggling about a subject or things going on at school.
Set rules where and when to play gadgets
While it is impossible to completely ban them from using gadgets, setting rules might help reduce screen time. Therefore, distinguish a place or area at your home wherein gadgets aren’t allowed. At home, phones or laptops are forbidden at the dining table, living room, especially, bedroom.
Again, educate them that these areas are for people to eat (dining room), interact (living room), and rest (bedroom).
Be the “role model”
I am guilty of this. While we struggle as “role models” this is a huge game-changer. If you can, limit yourself as well from using gadgets. I know it’s hard, especially, for digital moms like me.
Lastly, instead of threatening them about the dangers of too much screen time, talk to them in a calmly matter. Kids are smart. They can already understand us, even before we explain it to them. In an age-appropriate manner, explain that there are games that have violence or explicit language. These games are harmful to them and might hurt them in the long run. Come up with a solution TOGETHER on how you can minimize screen time, rather than mocking them. Explain the potential risks that might cause them and the family.
When children spend less time in front of a screen, they learn valuable things such as social skills, boost their self-esteem, they become more confident.
Parenting, in this day and age, is harder than I expected it to be. Before, our parents would only get mad if we stay out late playing with our friends. Now, besides that, we need to endure the ubiquitous use of gadgets. Through this platform, our children might be susceptible to misinformation, explicit language, and more. When giving them the freedom to use gadgets, it’s like opening a Pandora’s box of imminent danger.
But what can we do? Do we stop them? Of course, not! We cannot stop our children from progressing. We can only guide them to become digital-ready, yet most importantly, raising them as mindful people.
How about you? What do you do at home to reduce screen time?