Make Way for Mentoring Digital Screentime

by Shikha Das Shankar ~ Oct 11, 2018

Screentime battles have you surrounded day in and day out. The scene of your children sitting in front of the TV saying, “Five more minutes”, “One more show,” and “He is not letting me watch my show,” has played out in your living room many times. Pangs of guilt surface as you read that the American Association of Pediatrics has lowered its recommendation for acceptable screentime for toddlers.

We hear you, Parents. You have our attention.

Children have access to multiple gadgets today and that poses a big challenge in managing their screentime. They watch TV, play games on a tablet, and use a phone for social media—mostly simultaneously. The challenge is greater as schools are now geared towards more digital learning, in which children spend a significant amount of time in front of a screen to finish a school task or homework.

Let us begin by saying there are no foolproof action plans to manage screentime.

Many parents set timers to limit screentime, many use inbuilt apps on tablets to control media usage, and some completely say no to screentime during weekdays. Even with an elaborate rule-consequence system in place, you may find that no amount of reminders or threats are doing a lick of good when it’s dinner-time and you want your children to switch off their tablets.

While these monitor and control techniques are necessary, our efforts should not be limited to them.

We at PopSmartKids are dyed-in-wool members of a camp that believes healthy digital consumption habits can be achieved through gradual and consistent mentoring. We strongly feel by being role models for appropriate digital usage and an active participant in our children’s digital world, we can successfully raise children who set limits for themselves and practice good judgment when using digital media as teenagers and young adults.

Mentoring your children to exercise good digital habits is an effort for the long haul. But the process can start now. Try these simple steps to bring attention and awareness to your children as their curious mind sets out to explore the captivating world of digital media.

Accept it like other things

Accept that digital media will have a place in your child’s life, and increasingly so as they grow older. Mentoring him to use it appropriately is where we come in. Teach children that this, like everything else in his life has limitations—too much sugar is bad for health, playing basketball for six hours is not okay, and the next chapter of the gripping adventure series will have to wait till tomorrow morning—screentime too comes with limits.

Explain the purpose

The multifold purpose of digital media should be explained to children from the beginning. The knowledge that technology is a means of entertainment, a tool for learning and way to communicate can be planted early in a child’s mind. This awareness helps children understand why parents may say “No” to more TV shows but will encourage them to use the internet to search for information required to complete the history homework.

Include not replace

Teaching children that digital technology should not replace social interaction, physical activity and doing a household chore is important for them to understand that we should not let TV and tablets take over. If we teach children to include digital screentime in their daily routine just like we include piano lessons and playdates, children are more likely to understand the importance of balance.

Be a part of their digital life

Including yourself in your children’s screentime is a great way to bond with them and encourage learning. Working with your child on an app that allows you to collaborate with him on learning to code or writing a story is a fun way to share screentime. Show interest if he talks about a new app or video game he heard about from his friends at school. Don’t be quick to download it on his tablet. Show him that due-diligence is important for everything in the digital world by practicing it.

Trying to strike a balance in today’s digital world is learning for parents as much as it is for our children. We support you in your efforts to create that balance and strive to be a motivating force for raising the next generation of responsible digital natives.

Shikha Das Shankar is a freelance storyteller. Multitasking dragon slayer mom. Happy hiker. When not writing, she loves hiking with her favorite trio—the son, the daughter and the husband or cooking her favorite foods in her de-stressing zone, the kitchen.