Childhood, unplugged: Drawing kids away from their gadget addiction


IT’S virtually impossible to get children to stay away from the virtual world these days. Given the multi-screen era that we are in, it is not surprising that teaching kids how to detach from their gadgets is a major problem for many parents. The matter gets more complicated when guardians are having dinner conversations and “heart-to-heart” talk with their kids while looking down at their gadgets. While many are replying to “must-respond” Facebook, WhatsApp and text messages on their smartphones, children are left confused as to where to draw the line when they are using gadgets. At a recent panel organised by ZooMoo, a television channel for preschoolers that feature animals, this topic, as well as the challenges of raising a child in the digital era, was discussed. Keeping away from technology may not be feasible in today’s circumstances, however, there are ways parents and children can balance their time spent on screens. It is about understanding your child and what works for them, explains Dr Shen-Li Lee, parenting expert and author of Brainchild. “Parents need to be the gatekeepers of their child’s time and activities on screens. Similar to any other activity, such as play time, kids do not know when to stop and are likely to be upset when they are told to.” Unfortunately, most parents have the impression that if their child is watching television or playing games, they are not learning anything as parents believe the primary purpose of these activities is purely for fun, says Catherine Nebauer, general manager of ZooMoo Networks for Australia. “However, as technology plays a big role in our lives, it is not about the removal, but the mindfulness of using it. Instead of setting parameters on the amount of time allowed, the smarter approach is to know what content their child consumes and how they react to it.” During the panel, a question on the effects of exposure to technology on a child’s social development was raised. Although current research does not provide a conclusive answer to whether there is a direct negative or positive impact on children, the consensus is that consuming digital media in moderation is key. Screen time is not necessarily a bad thing as gadgets can be an educational tool or can be used as part of bonding time, says Aishah Sinclair, celebrity mom of two, radio DJ and ZooMoo brand ambassador. She says parents need to ensure that they set good examples for children to emulate. “From my own experience, sometimes hiding the iPad from my girls does not work as they catch me using the mobile phone to answer urgent work emails. “One of the methods children learn is through imitation. Watching their parents practice a well-balanced screen time routine will have a positive impact on children. Some examples include picking up a book to read, spending time outdoors or even the simple action of putting away devices at the dinner table.” Dr Lee agrees with this, adding that restricting technology may not be the best way to navigate the digital space. “Although computer and video games are often associated with the negative effects they have on children, there is some value for in them for children, including teaching kids problem solving skills and creativity. In addition, depending on the type of game, they can also be exposed to real-life scenarios, such as trading.” ZooMoo’s approach to content is to provide a safe environment for children to learn through animals and the world they live in. Through collaborations with child and education experts, the curated content and programming format is designed to entertain while stimulating young minds. “As a channel that believes in the power of technology, we embrace it and encourage children to be exposed to it from a young age. It is not something that can be avoided as a child grows up, and conditioning them in the proper use of technology early will be beneficial,” says Nebauer. “In this age of the digital world, there is no way to implement a total blackout on technology. Rather, like with any other activity, there is a suitable time and place, and it is up to parents to find ways to balance quality time on screen and off.”

[Source:-The New Straits Online]

Written by Saheli