Our childhoods were marked by hour-long games on the playground and catching our favourite cartoons on TV at a fixed time. On the other hand, the childhoods of our kids are more about marathon-gaming sessions and watching their favourite cartoons on YouTube. It is this very difference that gives rise to the questions that plague all parents: How much screen-time is okay? Does doing homework on a gadget count as screen-time? How to manage screen-time without it becoming scream-time?

The answer to all your questions is the same: it’s complicated. Any decisions regarding screen-time for children have to be made at the moment after understanding the situation and context. No parent, teacher or child psychologist has a definite conclusion or suggestion when it comes to children’s screen-time. However, there are a few things every parent can keep in mind while navigating the battle between screen-time and scream-time.

1) Screen-time is inevitable
If there is anything the pandemic lockdowns have taught us, it is that technology plays a vital part in our daily lives. Therefore, while saying no to any screen-time at all is impossible, the content consumed can definitely be monitored.

2) Lay down some ground rules
Laying down some basic rules about device usage is a great idea. For example, checking with an adult before using any device – be it for homework or video call with grandparents. Always ask.

3) Use technology to your advantage
Nearly all devices come with in-built parental controls or have apps that can do so. You can enable them to have control over what and how much content does your child consume.

4) Emphasise the dangers of technology
For our children, having gadgets and the internet is like having eat-all-you-can access to a candy store. Thus, it is our responsibility to explain to them the dangers of technology. Tell them that a quiz to find out their favourite cartoon character is actually collecting their personal information and preferences.

5) Lead by example
If your children see you in front of a screen day and night, they want to do the same. Make sure to take some time off-screen and indulge them with some board games, book reading or any other activities you can bond over.

Managing your child’s screen-time will always be a challenge. But discussing the do & don’ts of screen-time in advance will ensure that screen-time doesn’t become scream-time every other day.

December 28, 2021 — Niyati Mittal