Once upon a time, it was ‘give him a toy’, today it is ‘give him an IPad’. When it comes to keeping kids occupied, sometimes you might not be able to afford the time or the effort. Every mommy needs a break, but unfortunately handing a toy to your kid no longer seems to have the same charm that it used to. In a technology-oriented era, by the time your kids are two they’ll know how to snap a selfie better than you ever will. And with all the kids’ applications and the attention-grabbing games that you can download; I-Pads, phones, and computers can grant you some time to rest. The question however remains: how much screen time should your child be allowed to have per day?
It was much easier to answer that before when screen time only meant exposure to television, but with a wide scale of technological varieties now available, it is a more complicated case. The detrimental consequences of your kid getting addicted to a piece of metal are quite substantial, and to manage that, parental control over technology usage is required. Even genius Steve Jobs had strict rules concerning that matter, not letting his kids try the I-Pad that he invented for the world.
“The first seven years of any kid’s life shape his personality for the rest of his life”
The physical side effects of over-using technology, like headaches, poor-sight and declining memory, are commonly known. But parents sometimes don’t put as much emphasis on the psychological effects of children staring at a screen all day long.
“The first seven years of any kid’s life shape his personality for the rest of his life. Any change later throughout the years is always difficult to attain” says kids’ psychiatrist Sherein ElRayess. When children are still baby-stepping their way through life they should be busy making friends, developing their skills and building their own characters. It is only through communication with others that they learn to identify themselves.
“Excessive exposure to TV and cartoons reduces a child’s imagination.”
Kids should always be given the space to get creative, use their hands, indulge in craft-work and broaden their horizons. Such activities allow them to explore tangible experiences necessary for their development, something which technology can’t and shouldn’t replace. “Excessive exposure to TV and cartoons reduces a child’s imagination. When you give children books to read for instance, they can see pictures and then they can make up a story with their own sense of creativity. When they listen to music, they are allowed the opportunity to imagine. However, with cartoons, a child is merely a spectator, and is mostly never involved,” says Sarah Abdelasim, founder of Sarah’s Kindergarten.
Getting attached to electronic devices can lead to gradual withdrawal from the real world whilst getting more and more indulged in the virtual one, something that is likely to turn any child into an introvert. “I have seen kids who master puzzle-games on i-Pads fail to put together two pieces of an actual puzzle because they haven’t developed an understanding of the real thing,” Sarah adds.
“Gradual withdrawal from the real world is likely to turn any child into an introvert.”
It is the extremes that are the most toxic making moderation the answer. “You need to make sure your child doesn’t spend more than half an hour on the i-Pad per day,” Sherein tells.
Children from 2 to 5 should be allowed a maximum time of 1 hour of screen-time per day. With children aged 6 or older, parents can decide the time and tailor their own restrictions while monitoring the kind of digital media their kids are exposed to. Babies on the other hand shouldn’t be allowed any exposure at all, as they are most vulnerable to screens.
Additionally, one common belief agreed on amongst tech-specialists is placing the computer or television in a family space such as the living room instead of the child’s bedroom. Something that eliminates any opportunity for isolation, puts their social lives on the right track and reduces chances of exposure to inappropriate content and bullying from other kids.
On school nights, it is preferable that children don’t have access to computers unless it is for doing their homework. However, on the weekends they can be allowed an hour on the computer because total deprivation of technology might be harmful especially when children go to school and are surrounded by friends who don’t follow the same rules.