Going absolutely screen-free may not be a possibility in today’s time... But parents must take preventive measures to reduce child’s exposure to screen

Manisha Dhami
Digital technologies are ubiquitous in the 21st century. Technologies  support our autonomy by connecting us to persons, contents and services independently of time and place constraints. Digital opportunity gives the promise of connectivity which has become an integral part of human life.  Most of the children of the current generation are avid  internet users and make use of a range of information and communication technologies.
According to the Internet and Mobile Association of India, 66 million  Internet users in the country are in the age bracket of 5 to 11 years.  Children engage with digital devices for many purposes, from watching TV to playing games to chatting and also for school projects. This has led to vast- array of online opportunities but this expansion of internet use, children are exposed to different online risks as well.
Over use of mobile phones and TV has increased the risk of obesity, hypertension, diabetes among children. Moreover it is leading to gizmo craving because of which children are becoming aggressive and insomniac. According to WHO, the benefits of less screen-based sedentary behaviour (TV viewing, watching videos, playing computer games) include reduced obesity, improved motor and cognitive development and psychosocial health. Moderate use of digital technologies is beneficial for children’s mental well-being, while both no use or too much use can have a negative impact.
The advent of COVID 19 pandemic has drastically disrupted the lifestyle of children, as their normal routine has been shaken up. It’s a time of virtual learning and now children spend more time on screen. Parents who fear their kids are spending too much time in front of screens now have more reason for concern.
Going absolutely screen- free may not be a possibility in today’s time, but parents should at least find measures to reduce child’s exposure to screen.
— Digital detox: It helps to stay away from using any electronic gadgets for a period of time. Introduce technology free zones in your home and make it as part of schedule where electronic gadgets aren’t allowed and where E-fasting can be done. Encourage your kid to spend that quality time with family.
— No screen an hour before bedtime : See that your kids or you do not use cell phones an hour before bedtime because when you are using your phone or laptop, or watching TV, the screen emits light which gives the brain the impression that it is not bedtime yet.
Melatonin is a natural hormone which is released in response to darkness and suppressed by light. As a result it leads to insomnia or poor quality of sleep.
— Encourage your children to play indoor games, read books, solve puzzles and listen to music. Help him/her enhance creativity
— No screen during meal : Children who use screen during eating have no idea about their appetite. What they are eating, how they are eating and how much they are eating. Children often do binge eating and some children do not chew the food properly because their concentration is on screen. Parents are missing family’s richest conversations. Value those times with your children. Don’t let the TV steal them from you.
— Monitor the content: Parents  must protect their kids from watching explicit content. Parental controls are software tools that allow you to monitor and limit what your child sees and does online.
Use reputable child-friendly wi-fi products using terms like ‘child friendly routers’. They  can be used to filter harmful content, such as ‘adult’ or sexual material.
— Parental control function on mobile : Parents can access family links easily within their device settings and connect their child’s phone (Application name: Digital well being and parental control).
It helps to monitor the content what child is watching, and parents can decide on how much time each application requires for their child. Per application  time limit gives parents more control, helps limit your child’s cellular/mobile data usage and if a child needs bonus time for a certain game or any other application. Children can request more time, parents can accept or deny.
As technology has become more and more integral to everything we do, it can sometimes distract us from the things that matter most to us. There is a need to balance with technology that is right for you. It’s time to harness the good, limit the harm.

The writer is a Research Scholar at the Deptt. of Human Development and Family Studies, PAU, Ludhiana