Increasing screen time, be it via mobiles, TV, Tablets or laptops, has been a cause of concern for parents of all age-groups. While many adults are trying to reduce their continuous phone usage, they are now being faced with yet another problem - their kids’ growing dependence on technology. So we spoke to a few parents who devised their own ways to successfully keep their kids away from using smartphones and reducing their exposure to unnecessary screen time. Here’s what they had to say...
Lead By Example
‘We try to limit our own usage of phones and tablets. We have a no-phones-on-saturdays rule in place so no matter who calls or texts we don’t respond. Keeping it basic and trying to connect by hugging, touching each other. Channel their energy into cooking together, making clay art, playing in the park and cycling. Also, we have an hour in the week where all four of us sit for reading our favourite books. I guess kids watch and learn so do what you’d want your kids to pick up.’
-Miruna Ahmed, mother of two toddlers.
‘What worked for us is teaching by doing. We avoid checking our phones constantly in front of our son. If he doesn't see the phone all the time there's a less chance of him wanting to use it.’
-Paraj Saxena, father of a 3-year-old.
Outdoor Activity Is Key
‘As a first reaction to your question, I'd say well begun is half done. And so begin culturing your child in early years to not regret it later. That, to me, is key. My 6-year-old is thankfully not obsessive about screen time. The key lies in the outdoors. We are culturing her on the habit of getting out on a morning run schedule every alternate day, replacing an TV time of cartoons. That, I've noticed, has got her engaged in associated preparation - start early morning with juice, a peanut butter sandwich, get clothes ready for the next day run, sleep on time, etc. I've found her querying us more on the benefits of running. That said, there are breakdowns too, that take a lot of push and motivation but she's excited always post-run seeing how much she has achieved in distance/time scale measures. This formula has really worked for us to get her day off to a great start.’
-Ruma Attreya, mother of a 7-year-old.
‘If a kid is addicted to their phone, shift her source of entertainment to a bigger screen. To start with, my daughter was addicted to using phones. So from phones we shifted her attention to the iPad, then the television. Tried to make her busy with indoor as well as outdoor activities. It is better to move steadily instead of giving them a shock. It took me only two months to get her away from the digital world and trust me, I did not have to face any tantrums’.
-Sonu Chhetri: mother of a 7-year-old.
‘Human beings are fascinated with technology, visual or any other form, so an alternative to technology is again technology but a self made one. So here’s what I do with my daughter, we try to build things together. My daughter loves playing with hand-made vehicles made from bottles that runs on its caps. We make paper boat that floats on a rubber band and toothpick mechanism. Looking at childhood pictures through a shoe box projector in dark room or building a cardboard house with doorbells, building a kaleidoscope from a foil paper roll cardboard etc. They will spend less time on gadgets till we spend our maximum time with them.’
-Rahul Kharbanda, father of an 8-year-old.
‘In my case, I lock the electronic gadgets when I go for work. The kids have limited access even in my presence. Since I have explained the bad effects, kids cooperate. Plus I also encourage them to play more of outdoor games or have friends over at home to play board games so that they don’t get bored.’
-Shweta, mother of a 5-year old.
‘On a daily basis, phones and iPad are not accessible to them since I have my finger print code. Only during long travel they can use my phone for colouring activities, play mind-stimulating games on the kids apps specifically downloaded for them. I let them watch television for half-an-hour around noon and in the evening and also on weekends. They can watch educative shows like Peppa Pig, Baby TV or a good children’s movies. I have an understanding with my kids about what to watch, when to watch and for how long.’
-Aayushi, mother of a 5-year-old.
Divert Their Attention
‘I try hard to keep my daughter busy in some creative work like art and craft. Since my daughter loves painting we encourage her to paint daily. Now she enjoys spending her time drawing herself. We also try to involve her in outdoor activities such as swimming and dance alternately.’
-Poorva, mother of a 5-year-old.
Reasonable Time Limits
We never stop Nishka from using tablets or mobiles. Only thing we do is limit the time to one-hour daily, as we know the day we will ask her not to do something she will want to do that even more. It is impossible to have no-screen time, however, limiting it, really helped in our case.
-Richa Mutreja, mother of a 5-year-old.
I promote Prisha to ask me what she wants to watch and then I make sure we watch the programme with her. We encourage her to watch videos/shows on the television rather than small screens such as mobiles. We talk to our daughter about the hazards of extended hours of screen time, however, completely reducing it is also not fair. We have rules in place that I make sure are followed by all of us.
-Sapna, mother of a 5-year-old.
While we don’t have stringent rules around phone usage, before handing over a mobile to my teenage daughter, we had a long discussion around the ill-effects of internet, technology and how it can affect both adults and children alike. This has worked for me as open-discussions with my children give both me and my kids a place to keep own opinions and come to a solution that works for us all. I feel making our children understand the reason behind rules or actions we take as parents do make a huge difference.
- Geetika, mother of two teenagers.
It's always good to make kids understand the side effects of excessive screen time. I started with engaging them in reading and activity boxes and then making them read books on the subject which talks about harms of watching television or phones; such books are easily available and kids can better relate to them as they read about the same at their level. We, too, try reducing our phone usage around our kids as our kids as we cannot expect them to do something we as parents we do not follow ourselves.
-Swati, mother of 6-year-old twins.