How many of us have used iPads or the TV as a babysitter? Or motivated our children’s behaviour with smartphones or gaming consoles, playing a delicate game of carrot and stick?
I know I have. Digital devices have become such an integral part of everyone’s lives, especially with Home-Based Learning (HBL) and Work from Home (WFH). But how can we put boundaries in place to save our children who are digital natives from turning into digital zombies?
Can we parents today maintain some sanity and safety amidst the onslaught of digital noise day in, day out, which our parents never had to deal with?
How can we guide our children to balance their need for entertainment and for meaningful engagement online?
First, we can be aware of our own digital parenting approach. Clique Click, a digital parenting guide by the Media Literacy Council, offers great tips while highlighting four main approaches in Singaporean households :
The Guardians are concerned about their children’s digital diet and carefully monitor their use of devices, social media accounts. They share concerns about risks with their children and set limits on their use of devices. They are likely to ask to be added as friends in their teens’ social media accounts.
TheRealists are more accepting of the use of technology and less uptight about restricting their children’s use of devices. They view media access and devices as tools, a means to an end. They tend not to deny their children access to technology, and collectively develop practical rules on device use.
The Optimists are enthusiastic about technology and are unconcerned about restricting their children’s use of it, viewing it as a valuable learning tool. They encourage its use and even use it as a family.
The Watchful Parents are well informed on the benefits and risks of the digital world. They read advice columns, join online parenting forums, and ask for tips from their friends. They try out the media before letting their children use them, and sometimes engage in media use with their children. They tend not to deny children access to technology.
Regardless of your parenting style, it’s helpful to consider key strategies to guide your children as they navigate the world of devices.
ENGAGE them in setting boundaries and rules. Create a family media plan. Agree on what an acceptable duration is to use the internet for studies, entertainment and connecting with friends. Let them know when the offline moments are (such as mealtimes). Let them know that you will check on their online activities from time to time.
ENCOURAGE them to speak to you and connect with others meaningfully through face-to-face interactions. Encourage them to diversify their interests beyond the digital world (for instance, in CCAs, Sports, and the Arts).
The amount of time that your children spend online will change as they grow. While screen time is not encouraged for children under 2 years old, parents can have a video chat with their children or watch a high-quality children’s programme (such as Sesame Street or The Magic Schoolbus) together. For children aged 2 to 5, it is best to limit it to 1 hour per day, with you participating in the digital activity with them. For children over 6, it is helpful to have conversations about how much time they can and should spend online, and the type of activities allowed.
EXPLORE the myriad of other activities that celebrate children’s innate curiosity and creativity without devices. For example,
– Take a walk at the nearest park or reservoir.
– Go to the playground.
– Join a sport.
– Play board games.
– Do chores in ingenious and collaborative ways.
– Go to the beach.
– Read a book together.
– Draw and paint.
– Build something with Lego.
– Bake or cook together.
– Create something in a science experiment or with atinker crate you can buy online.
– Have a meal at a local cafe with the devices placed face down on the table or kept away.
You may also wish to browse the Families for Life website for more activities for the whole family.
As time flies and their childhood disappears, it takes discipline and intentionality to maintain our sanity and our children’s well-being in the digital era. It’s not easy, but it’s worth the doing, and I believe you can do it too.
If you are struggling with managing your child’s digital diet, contact us for a free parenting consultation at [email protected]
Written By: Poh Ee Lyn, Senior Social Worker, Fei Yue Community Services