Let us just all agree that technology is addictive. It is addictive for adults and children alike. While looking into the causes for this addiction I came across a lot of articles that talk about the mind getting an instant dopamine hit and about instant gratification that makes it so hard to let go. What a lot of these articles also talked about is that it is especially difficult for a child. At an impressionable age it is not easy for a child to understand how their mind is being moulded by this addiction. In some cases, if the device is taken away then the child experiences low-level anxiety and panic.
I had started noticing that my 6yr old was also starting to ask for more screen time. I have been very careful not to let her just wonder the deep and dark depths of Youtube. I have always been very mindful if what she was watching and making sure the content was age appropriate but also somewhat educational. Some of the series that we have watched and that I would highly recommend are Magic School Bus, Story Bots and Beat Bugs on Netflix.
While I have enjoyed all the above mentioned series I have also tried to implement some practical offline practices to reduce this constant need of looking at the screen.
- Small World Play Ideas :: This is a Maria Montessori inspired idea where you can set up small worlds for a child to interact with. The child can interact with the different toys relevant to a particular topic. One of the most recent ones that I had made was to put some kinetic sand in a shallow dish with some pebble sand some construction type vehicles. Miss Z spent hours constructing a school and some roads with these hand full toys. She chose to play in this small world of hers after school instead of asking for screen time.
- Toy Rotation :: I have noticed that there is an inverse correlation between the number of toys that a child can enjoy at one time and the amount of time that the child spends playing with those toys. While we all like to buy all the latest toys for our kids we should keeps the number of toys to as low as 3 or 5 at a time. Also using everyday things as toys is something that really captures the imagination of a child rather than a toy that is made for them. Another way of looking at the same thing is that the box that the toy comes in can be far more interesting for the child than the toy itself. Using this to ones advantage is amazing when it comes to keep the child from being “bored” and not asking for screen time all the time.
- Tech to the Rescue :: There have been times when I have had no choice but to let Miss Z have technology. While nursing a headache or a deadline or simply while cooking for a gathering I have found that I use technology to my advantage. I let her listen to endless stories on Podcasts. She loves the fact that she is getting input from only one sense organ, her ears which means that she is not overwhelmed. And loves to draw, paint or play with play dough or kinetic sand at the same time. Technology is some forms can be such a blessing.
- Outdoor Time :: I can not emphasise enough how mush outdoor time helps us. I have since having her 6 yrs ago known that just stepping out of the house for sometime shifts both of our moods immediately. While I make it a point to go out with her everyday in the evening for some play time I also love stepping out for just 10 15 minute walks just for some fresh air. We always come back refreshed and happy.
- Books :: This maybe tough for some but I know how much we love it so I had to put it in the list. Books are the primary source of information for us. Only recently we went to the planetarium in our city and it had Miss Z hooked. We wanted to know all about planets and space and starts you name it… that we could find out. So the next thing we did was get an encyclopedia. We have gone through multiple topics multiple time and I know that we have only scratched the surface for her. Books before getting published go through multiple edits and checks. In my opinion that is by far the most reliable source when it come to information whereas anyone can publish on the internet. By behavior modeling I have been able to inculcate the habit of picking up a book and reading as a source of entertainment.
While looking at the screen there is multiple sensory input that is over stimulating for a child. The child is looking and hearing things that makes the child feel a certain way. This is overstimulating and harmful over long periods of time.
The mind is very impressionable from when we are born upto the age of 7 to 8 yrs old. Although there is nothing wrong with screen time allowing it in moderation is very crucial.
I hope that I have been able to help navigate this sticky topic of screen time. I have found a lot of relief by applying these ideas but I would love it if you could share some ideas of your own that have worked for you below.