Are you a millennial or the parent of a millennial?
If you’re the latter, you probably reminisce about the good old days of your own childhood. The summer memories of riding a bicycle with friends, or raiding a friend’s home for much-needed lemonade afterwards.
In contrast, the lives of young ones in the UAE are a wired existence – or should we say wireless? Add to that booming tech equation the long hot UAE summers with little or no outdoor activity. What do you get? Air conditioned, immobile, screen time.
American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that
‘kids under 2 watch no screen at all and kids 2 and above have no more than two hours spent in front of a screen.’
If you think about it, screen time, at present, is not just sitting in front of television passively or playing video games for hours. Screen time is now required – in classrooms, ICT Labs, for school projects and even a Nintendo Wii game on a rainy day. In light of this, AAP is rethinking its policy on screen time and probably a new version is soon to be up in 2016.
Why is monitoring screen time important?
Development of cognitive ability, vision, childhood obesity, poor posture, underdeveloped social skills, and insufficient and poor quality sleep are risks that are commonly associated with increased screen time. Not to forget dangers lurking in the online world for unsuspecting young children.
Technology is the future, however. We are probably looking at the world which is run by screens, and our children are going to be living in them – there’s no denying it.
So, here are 3 simple ways you and your children can balance out your current, possibly excessive, screen time:
1. The change starts with you:
Yes, as hard as it is to acknowledge, we let ourselves off the hook, as adults. We may have to work on laptops all day, but that doesn’t mean we need to have screens all day long. Limit screen time to the bare minimum: This means no mobiles on the dining table. No peeping into your social media accounts in between play time.
For your kids, resist using screens as a distraction tool. Youtube videos to calm a tantrum or a tablet in the pram as you shop is a definite no-no. Instead, lock in with your child one-on-one and use the hands-on parenting approach – teach them how to not be ‘bored’ at every turn and keep engaged with their minds.
Teach them to observe their surroundings, pay attention to people or a rattle – old-school style. Filter your kids’ screen time by monitoring how they use it. Support for parental control over the home network is available in the UAE: Call +972 4 33 82 500 or visit here.
For adults: Definite rules at home and outdoors, with severe non-compliance punishments for yourself, like no devices on the dinner table or in the bedroom, need to be enforced. Better still if the Wi-Fi router is switched off around bedtime [mobiles are not good to sleep near].
2. Keeping engaged in the real world:
The easiest way to balance all the devices in your child’s life is to actually expose them to off-screen stuff. Sports, art, libraries, reading, storytelling, puppet shows and playing with friends. These are a great vent to the physical and creative energies of kids.
Fret not for UAE’s summers, there are so many age appropriate places that are perfect to keep the children glued:
KIDZANIA for the younger kids a perfect blend of learning and fun.
The Garage Kids Camp is perfect to quench the inquisitiveness that lies dormant in kids here.
What about an indoor football game? Check out Goal! Junior Football Academy at The Dubai Mall.
For adults: Call an old friend for coffee or read a hard copy book instead of binge-watching a show. Don’t feel like going off-screen? At least put it to good use and watch TEDx videos instead.
3. Acing the virtual world:
Screen time is like sugar – though too much is no good, you definitely need good quality doses for functioning. Actively engaging media like PS4 and Kindle is a perfect way to get your kids future-ready. Any screen time education can be extended over with books and projects, to make it more interactive.
For adults: Educational apps are available for adults as well – your children [or future children] learn from what you do. Download apps like Coursera and duo lingo and learn something new yourself. Tech can also be used to encourage good habits with kids – like monitoring expenditure with Wally and reading on iBooks.
They can use their interests to head to a booming career: If you sense your child’s got a tech thumb, there’s even a coding school in the UAE to get them started early: The Coding Circle.
In the end, parenting is the same through all decades. We want what is the best for our child, no matter how the world changes.
So, what tricks do you have up your sleeve for mindful screen time for you and your kids? Tell us in the comments below.