However, there is one dilemma which is on the mind of many parents and that circles around screentime. As much of a boon the internet is, sadly, the internet and screentime isn’t the best thing for kids and adults. With babies getting addicted to screens as young as six months, experts are now warning about another potential risk factor for kids- secondhand screentime. In fact, it is believed that secondhand screentime is just as dangerous as passive or secondhand smoking.
What is it?
While parents and guardians have the provision of limiting the content kids have access too, what they do not have control over is secondhand screentime. Secondhand screentime is what your kid watches when someone in close contact with the kid (i.e., the parent) browses through it in the near vicinity. The problem also becomes concerning if children spend time around parents or guardians who are on their phones for a long time.
If left unmonitored, this can have drastic consequences for the child’s development graph.
Why is it problematic?
Guidelines suggest that kids between the age of 2-7 are exposed to no more than one hour of screentime of gadget usage per day, while screentime should altogether be “avoided” for kids less than 18 months of age.
Kids, when in contact with the parent who spends considerable time on the phone or the screen are at a higher risk of getting addicted to the screens as well and hamper the usual parent-child relationship. With secondhand screentime, there is a high risk of kids getting exposed to unmonitored content without proper supervision with the people surrounding the kids. Be it at the daycare, school, mall or any place where children are cared for by adults, spending a concerning amount of time around gadgets without proper control can have impacting consequences.
Research shows that children have a tendency to exhibit irrational behaviour pattern when parents spend excessive time on their devices. They are also more prone to exhibiting symptoms like irritability, mood swings, slow language development, hyperactivity and reduced cognitive functions. Be it something as little as applying the same example, or throwing hissy fits to demand the parent’s attention, there is also a high risk of excessive screentime impacting their self-esteem and emotional framework.
How much is too much?
Anything that crosses the 1-1.5 hour timeline per day is deemed dangerous for a growing child. In fact, for children in their adolescent and pre-teen days, the focus should also be put on the content quality they have access to.
What to do?
Excess screen time is bad for your kid’s brain and there is more than one reason for you to cut down on your screentime. It is important to remember that kids model your behaviour and learn from what you do. So it is most important that you set the right examples for your child. Before you go about telling your kids to stop consuming internet fodder, be watchful of what you do on the internet. More frequently you use your smartphones, more likely are your kids to follow that.
Screening what your kids have access to and what content you see can be quite a task, but it is something that has to be set in stone. As a rule of thumb, make sure you try and adopt a digital detox once you are home or in a child-friendly environment. When you are home, you can start by setting time limits and establish rules as in where phone or screens cannot be used.
You can also try avoiding phone and screen usage when you are having a conversation with someone and that is the lesson you should be telling your kids too. No phones at the dinner table, having quality conversation is key.
Parents can also make use of the same phones and timeline to impose curbs. Phones come with new features which set off alarms if the screen time exceeds limits.
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