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What are you looking at?

  • Published at 04:36 pm August 4th, 2019
Representational photo Bigstock

Health issues related to tech

Screens are everywhere these days. We wouldn’t be able to escape them even if we tried -- not that anyone really wants to. Parents, children and even grandparents are all hooked onto screens these days. But how safe is this practice, really? The World Health Organization recently published a report on how much screen time children under the age of five should be getting. 

For infants under the age of one, they have recommended zero screen time. And for other children under the age of five, it is one hour or less. According to them, the less screen time you give your child, the better. 

Their recommendations are similar to the advice given by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which recommends that children under the age of 18 months should avoid screens other than video calls.

However, there are opposing views as well. Some UK experts have claimed that these recommendations are based on poor evidence, and not all screen time is bad for children. 

Even though there may not be enough evidence, many parents may feel that it is better to be on the safe side and restrict their child’s screen time. But this is not easy. Many parents struggle to limit their children’s screen time.

The struggles:

In families where both parents work, it is not always possible to monitor the child and his or her association with screens. Sometimes, a mobile phone or iPad is needed to distract the child while the parents complete necessary household activities.

While joint families provide a great environment for a child to grow up in, they pose their own set of challenges for parents trying to control their kids. It is not always possible to stop a child from watching TV with a grandparent, or from playing games on an uncle’s phone.

These problems are very real and are being faced by parents every day. But with due diligence, it is possible to reduce screen time for children. Doing so will lead to children growing up to be more focused and successful adults.

The solution:

•   Bargain: “Kids will bargain,” says Sihinta Sabeen, mother of three-year-old Areez. “So I let him bargain a bit. If I want him to use the iPad for 20 minutes, then I will tell him that he can use it for 10. After using it for 10 minutes he will want another 10 minutes which I, then, allow” she explains.

•   Quality time: “The more quality time we spend with our daughter, the less time she spends looking at the phone or watching TV,” says Farhana Islam, mother of two-year-old Emma. Children want their parents’ attention more than they want to look at a screen. Spending quality time with parents is far more enriching for a child than the latter.

•   Lots of options: It is good to give your child a lot of options for alternate activities, says Semeen Akbar, mother of 3 year old Eesa and 3 months old Maya. “I don’t want my child to feel like he is being forced to do something. So if I want him to do something other than watch TV, I give him different options to choose from.” In this way the child feels like he has the ability to make some choices of his own.

•    Start early: It is better to limit a child’s screen time from the beginning, by never allowing them to exceed the recommended screen time in the first place. Once it becomes a habit, it can be very hard to stop. 

Every family has their own struggles and set of issues to deal with, and no two children are the same. These guidelines don’t have to be followed to a tee to get results. Awareness is key. If parents are aware, then they can find their own way around these issues. 

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