Limiting screen time: golden rules that Tikitoro mums follow

Personal Care

Parent alert! The statistics on screentime shooting up, thanks to the pandemic, are alarming indeed. Check this:

  • The Economic Times reports that screentime has shot up by 100% since the first lockdown regulations. 
  • Forbes reports that children have been 20% less physically active since the pandemic.
  • The WHO estimates that screen time outside of virtual classes doubled to 7.7 hours daily from the pre-pandemic 3.8 hours.

The definition of optimum screen time for school-going kids (4-17) tends to vary but most mothers wouldn’t debate that their kids are spending way too much time glued to screens. 

So, is there a fool-proof way to get junior off that screen? Experts have a lot to say on this but we believe, hands-on moms, who actually face the problem on a day-to-day basis are equally qualified (perhaps more) to share their suggestions. After all, what could be better than first-hand experience?

We spoke to three Tikitribe moms and here’s what they had to say.

Have the conversation.

Smriti Pandey from Mumbai, home-maker and mother to 13-year-old Aarav has set a daily duration for ‘everything involving screens’. 

She says, “Ripping away the Ipad from him seemed cruel and against my parenting policies. Instead, I chose my time carefully – when he was in a happy mood and we were chatting about his fun day out playing cricket - and talked about the balance between his other activities and screen viewing, and how important it was for me to intervene. 

“I decided to keep the devices with me when not in use. Basically, no access without my knowledge. At first, he would rush home from school and whine about not having his Ipad but I had to hold firm. This is the tough part! But I was rewarded when eventually he got into a routine of putting away his bags first and even helping me with chores around the house. Now, he’s only allowed 1.5 hours of screen time every day, and he seems ok with this – touch wood!”

Smriti says she makes a sustained and daily effort to encourage Aarav to get involved in other activities that don’t need a screen - like reading, playing outside with the neighbourhood kids, and fishing out old board games to play with the family. Basically, she doesn’t tell him to ‘go do something else’ when he is at a loose end, but does it with him or facilitates it. 

Set an example – cut screen time yourself.

Bengaluru-based software engineer, Rachena Shetty, has been working hard on limiting screen time for her 8-year-old daughter Kiara. “I don’t think there’s a one-size-fits-all solution to this. But since excessive screen time is harmful to everyone, we as a family decided to ditch our screens while spending time together." Rachena believes in setting an example for children is infinitely more effective than telling them what to do.

An article published by the Michigan State University Extension (MSU) reports that young children pay far more attention to the world around them than parents give them credit for. They’re constantly paying attention to the actions of their parents, caregivers and people around them – even though they may seem to be distracted and focused elsewhere. So, do as you want your child to do!

Even the Ministry of Human Resource Development noted the need to regulate screen time and during the pandemic had a set of rules recommending screen time for online classes for different age groups, going up to not more than 30–45 minutes sessions for children 16/17 years of age. 

Be firm, don’t give in.

Hina Varma and her 16-year-old son Hiten Varma recently moved to Mumbai after a decade of living overseas. Says Hina: “It is quite embarrassing to say that there were a few screaming battles at the start about how we would be setting up our devices. Nonetheless, I was adamant about having all devices like the TV and the computer in the living room so I could monitor the content he was viewing from time to time."

She also adds that being new in town gives her the advantage of exploring what the place has to offer. “I make sure Hiten accompanies me, even if it’s just to the grocery store, so that way he’s not glued to the computer screen all day.”

The net takeaway, the moms agree on: 

  • Talking to the kids sensibly at a time they are likely to be most receptive.
  • Dwell on simple facts on why too much screen time is bad and how much is too much (arrive at a mutually agreed upon period) – then stick to it, tantrums notwithstanding!
  • Work hard, think out of the box to provide other interest points for your child, and get involved yourself.
  • Set an example – cut your own screen time!
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