Meaningful Parenting- The first five years to the five senses-Part 2

Dear Technology,

Do what you can but don’t take away from me the simple pleasures of life.

Be a part of my life but don’t engulf me for I made you and not the other way around.

From- A Parent.

There are certain guidelines which we should keep in mind while regulating the use of the screen in our life and our child’s life.

Before the age 5- Let the child explore his senses and learn by experience.

American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) was very strict saying NO to any screen time before the age of 2. Post that the screen time should not exceed 2 hours. Around October 2015, it further relaxed its guidelines and asks parents to keep it at the minimum and when exposed, to focus on the quality of the content and focus on interaction and learning. Scientists say that the best way to learn something is to take it in through multiple senses at the same time.

Learning rhymes and enjoying Music- Is there a better singer for an infant or a toddler than this mom? And play if you must on your phone, keep it away from sight. Just the audio. Let the child use his senses to enjoy music and rhymes. Sing along. Make it experiential rather than just a background music.

Eating time- Let him explore his food. He didn't come to the world with the learning that to eat food, one need to be distracted.  If the kid is acting fussy and you need a distraction, give him the food itself. If that gets messy, give him a paper and a crayon. Let him scribble while you feed. Nobody said that ‘youtube’ rhymes were the solution for picky or cranky eaters. In a restaurant as you wait for your food, tempting it is, try not to use screen time either for yourself or your child. Pick up the paper napkins, carry a pen along, a crayon, a marker, a key chain or post-its. Give experience a chance. Give the parent in you a chance.

Play time- Play around this age should be all about fun and his five senses. You make him see a flower on the iPad-why don't you go out with him and find him a flower and let him touch it, feel it, smell it. You want him to know farm animals and the sounds they make. Get him a book and show him the farm animals, making different sounds as you go along.

Your time-I empathize here for I know how hard it can get. For those 15 minutes of blissful moments, seek a caregiver or your spouse. Put him in a playpen or a room which is totally childproofed. Gather all the kinds of empty boxes, fill them up with dry legumes and beans secure them tightly and for infant and toddlers. These are the perfect play toys. For preschoolers, add lots of age appropriate books in your house, crayons, water paints, chalk, and board or toys and they can be easily navigated to entertain themselves.

Kitchen work-I always use to get my toddler in the kitchen, make him sit at a safe place on the ground, wash those baby eggplants and give him to play along with kitchen utensils. Yes, it becomes a mess. But motherhood is challenging. It's a choice after all. All those advertisement papers that come in the daily mail, I use to sit with him, cut the vegetables and fruits and stick it on the chart paper for him. He used to be engaged applying glue on them and sticking them randomly. If you look out for options to engage with him, you will always find one.

A ‘screen’ habit is hard to break. It has dependency and addictive tendencies which can be very unhealthy. As a parent, you have to ensure that YOU are not the one who is cultivating that habit. Don't forget- you are the parent.  For babies and toddlers, don't give in to whining. That will only reinforce that if I cry, I will get to watch. Don’t hand over the phone to soothe the child.

For children post 5 years of age
Once the child enters school and thereon, he will be on his computer, he will be watching TV shows many recommended by teachers to watch and may write a report and he may be doing some very useful, innovative and wonderful things on his computer.

WHAT DOES RESEARCH SAY? YES, there are some positive effects too.
But he should also be taught what to watch, how to turn it off and when to turn it off. This is taught by parents and behavior is regulated at home.

Saying the content is educational in nature is like being in a bubble. Educational is a very loose term. From TV shows to games to apps, merely naming it educational doesn’t make it so.  Secondly, not all education can be/should be left to the ‘screens’. As of late 2015, there were a whopping 80,000 apps categorized by Apple as "educational," and more are being developed and released all the time.

We are aware of the way the world has changed and we also inhabit this place. We live by rules of the world and norms that are set.

Spare the first five years of life and the next 65 years-------------make conscious choices to let the "We handling the screen" rather than the “screen handling us."

This may sound philosophical but broken down to everyday terms -You cannot let the gadget rule your emotions, your relationships, and life in general. It has to be a conscious, everyday choice.

Consider these questions before buying a device for your child post 5 years of age.

·    Is my kid ready for this device or am I trying to be overambitious?

·   Does it have the much-needed parental control to restrict access to the internet, limit purchases etc.

· Will this device help my kid in his/her learning either at school or at home? Or is it just another jazzy branded device?

Cultivate good FAMILY HABITS

It starts with YOU.

Limit TV viewing and Computer/Smartphone use at home. You cannot be responding to every ping and tringgg as if it was the most important thing to attend to.  Analyze your entire day – you will see that most of the times evenings ‘pings’ are mostly for fun sake. Refrain. Your child will learn the healthy habits from you.

Try to avoid using TV or computer time as a reward. Don't make it so precious to the child.

Engage child appropriate content on TV or computer –Use parental control to restrict inappropriate content. Engage with your child to find which shows are good for him and why.

When possible watch TV with your child- There are family shows and family movies. Try to create linkages between the TV content and everyday life so that they become more relevant and meaningful to him.

Technology Zone-Once everyone's back home, all the phones go into the phone basket, kept on silent. After a day's work when you have pretty much-taken care of your activities, nothing urgent reaches at that time.

Dining time- is exclusively for family eating together. It's about family bonding time. It’s here on the table that you share , talk, laugh and be with your family. TV is the worst form of distraction which ruins the family of this very special bonding time.

Switch off time- A clear cut rule in the house that post 11 pm or 12 pm, nobody should be on the computer, laptop, iPad or phone. You may say it's not possible with grown up kids. I say- it's about habits and conscious choices. It about raising the family with those conscious choices. Though he may not switch off at 12 and still take a peek, the probability of his/her following the home norms are also higher. You are just increasing the probability. If the roots are strong, the probability of the tree falling off at any wind is low. It may still happen. But it may not happen too. You are just creating that space for the probability.

Educate- It's about teaching them to think critically about technology. That is, it's not just being able to manipulate a mouse, navigate YouTube or click pictures and upload. Children, with their parents and teachers, should be ideally developing an understanding of what these devices are, what technology is, how it helps us in exchanging ideas, in communication and building knowledge and also the pitfalls.

As children grow, they need to see technology as a tool for many productive purposes. Much of the learning should come from the parents. Also, its important to educate them about useful technology and some that are just for fun. Some that are not good fun and should be refrained from. Educating on media and technology use, its etiquettes and the right things is all in parent’s hands.

But if you are an addict yourself, there is not much that can be done.

Whenever, wherever, when it comes to you and your child…experience life with him under the sun and not behind the screen. For life is out there and not in here.

To read Part 1 click on the following link

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