According to the American Association of Pediatrics, screen time under two years old is not advisable, and it should be less than two hours per day for older kids.
By Jenisha Shah
It’s 7 am, you snooze your alarm and start to check your Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Twitter notifications by now you realise its past 7.30 am and you are running late. To add to it, you are now upset about your friends posting pictures on the beach, while you have to rush to work or get on with chores. Life may feel unexciting. This is probably how most of us start our mornings and pass on the ritual to our children as well.
According to the American Association of Pediatrics, screen time under two years old is not advisable, and it should be less than two hours per day for older kids. And that includes all screen activity ranging from watching television, working on a computer, playing video games to instant messaging on a phone. The term “internet addiction” refers to a swathe of excessive and compulsive technology related behaviors resulting in negative outcomes.
This was probably not how a lot of us grew up. These days, being active on social media is part of the norm, giving one a false sense of belonging. A mother of two children, an eight-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son shares, “As a mother, I would be worried if my child’s conversations circle around social media, asking if I have their friends’ mothers on my social media, why I haven’t posted about their every little achievement or how many comments and likes a post on them received. Thankfully, my children either simply refuse to be photographed or firmly tell others not to post their pictures on social media.”
Social media isn’t merely a part of their life, but in fact, a digital lifestyle is a way of life. The recommended age for using social media sites has been pegged at 13 years and above though many children have access to it much earlier. Musically, Insta story, posts, tags, check-ins, emojis, news feed are part of their vocabulary. It reflects their way of maintaining relations with peers and can result in over-sharing. Here are some ways to maintain a balance during online interactions:
Encourage face to face interactions: If your child wants to connect with his or her friends, ask them to call them home instead of sending messages through different messengers over the phone.
Educate them on how social media works: Create awareness about how things on the internet remain forever and to think twice before they post. Remind them that everything posted is being seen by other people and once something’s online, it’s hard to take back as it’s almost always available in some form or the other.
Priortise your privacy and respect others: Avoid sharing any information about one’s home address as well as information that is private. Reminding children not to demean or engage in activities they may regret later is essential. Ask kids to give you a tour of their social media world. As they’re showing you around, you might hear some positive stuff you weren’t expecting, as well as encounter problem areas they could use help with. Explore their feelings about sharing and encourage them to question you if they have doubts.
Out of bound usage: Not using devices in certain places and times can be something that you can practice and make sure children follow as a rule. For instance, no cellphones during dinner time.
With the help of technology we can equip ourselves and our children to adapt to new innovations instead of getting fixated on them. If you observe your children’s mental health being significantly affected, it’s a good idea to get a sense of their online life, seek help and address it with a psychologist.
(The writer is Lead Clinical Psychologist at Mpower.)