By Ritika Jain
We live in an age of information overload. New content is being created as fast as it’s being consumed, and being hurled at us from all directions. In an average family, the elders in a household are hooked to news channels, parents are watching reality shows or television soaps and kids are engaged in gaming or social media.
While everyone is free to pick their choice of content, it becomes a little difficult not to expose young kids to all that is consumed as family viewing. While it may be okay for a teenager to watch Sabrina, it may not suitable for an eight-year-old because of how scary it is. The same way, adults might have the discretion to watch shows like Bigg Boss but kids certainly should not. Kids simply don’t have the emotional range to understand or process what goes on in an adult’s world. That is why we have censor boards declaring ratings for each movie, game or TV show. Facebook also has a policy that states it’s for 13 years and above.
A parent may feel that his/her child can handle the violence or the spooks, or isn’t even interested in/doesn’t understand romantic or sexual language, but kids absorb everything and the impact shows up in one way or another. TV has a host of bad content-from reinforcing gender stereotyping to depicting usage of alcohol and drugs. If your kid is watching gore, he may not toughen up, he may get nightmares instead. Worse still, he may start behaving aggressively. If she’s chatting with strangers on a seemingly safe gaming platform, she may be vulnerable to grooming by predators. Just as we’re alert that our child should not be in physical danger, so must we be on guard about the ways in which their minds can get scarred. So, how does one go about enforcing that?
Don’t keep the TV or computer in the bedroom
Have the child access it in the living room where you or another caretaker can keep an eye on what is being viewed. You may just spot cyber-bullying and be able to intervene in time or avert more serious and tragic events like the blue whale challenge.
Limit screen time
This way, your child is forced to pick one or two favourite shows. These should be okayed by you after checking the ratings and reviews by other parents online. There are sites like Common Sense Media that are meant for verifying just this. Moreover, more screen time means lesser physical activity which puts your kids at risk of being overweight. It can also translate into poor eye health or less sleep for teens. On the other hand, digital detox has a host of benefits. By boosting their imagination through traditional play, kids develop a more creative bent of mind. They also pick up social skills better.
Give personal gadgets at an appropriate age
Till then, a kid can access your smart phone and tablet. Make sure you don’t have unsuitable content on it. You could use the incognito mode in your browser so adult content doesn’t show up in your history. Between 11 and 13 is considered a safe age for owning personal gadgets. Once they have one, put child lock settings on so they still get to access only what you’re okay with. YouTube has a kids version, so does Google. Use them.
Don’t take your child along to movies meant for adults
Very often, the kids aren’t even interested in tagging along and only cause disturbance to others. What does a child gain to learn from a movie like Talwar or Hunterrr? If you don’t have a babysitter, wait a bit longer and watch the movie at home when it gets released on Netflix or Amazon Prime. Also, discourage people around you from playing music with raunchy lyrics.
Not everything in the newspaper is for kids
Black out or cut out sensitive material from newspapers before you leave them lying about the house. It’s one thing to encourage general awareness and another to let them know gory details of every rape or murder that’s committed. It can be very distressful for a child.
Monitor books and board games too
Games like Cards Against Humanity or Joking Hazard should not be within kids’ reach. It’s okay for your bookshelf to have Fifty Shades of Grey but the fantasy novel or Manga your child picks up should be cleared by you first. A lot of authors like Sarah J Maas write for both adults as well as kids, so ask the bookshop for a recommendation.
Consider your kids’ ability to handle information. Disturbing news, especially if it’s closer to home, can cause anxiety in kids. Talk to them in a way they would understand so you know they’re not misinformed either. Answer their questions because if you don’t, they’ll just turn to some other source to satisfy their curiosity. If your child has somehow been exposed to porn or some other graphic content, explain to them that it’s staged.