Follow these expert tips to establish a middle ground that will help ensure a healthy balance when it comes to screen time for your children.
Technology has completely revolutionised the world. It affects just about everything we do – from paying accounts, to research and calling a taxi, right down to how we raise our children.
The latter is especially important and according to Toy Kingdom’s creative parenting expert, Nikki Bush, overusing technology could be “risky” for a child’s development. She says children lose their sense of initiative and creativity when exposed to tech devices for long periods in the day, so she encourages parents to think carefully before handing children a handheld device “just because”.
“Yes, technology is part of the fabric of our lives, but we need to curb the use of tech devices in a child’s routine and find that middle ground when it comes to on-screen time. This is crucial for a child’s developmental needs,” says Nikki.
Using technology as a babysitter or entertainer can be harmful to your child’s development
Nikki says although some parents feel that on-screen activities act as both a babysitter and entertainer during their often-busy schedules, it could be quite detrimental. In fact, she says too much time spent watching movies on the laptop, or playing video games on the tablet stunts a child’s social skills and ability to interact with friends, family members and even their teachers. And since screen time can also be quite addictive because it stimulates the secretion of chemicals from the pleasure centre of the brain, parents are advised to limit it where applicable.
“Children are increasingly viewing the world from a screen, but for personal development they need to engage with real people on real things and not just the virtual world as seen on screen. Moderation between on-screen and off-screen is so important,” she says.
Nikki shares a few tips with parents on how not to use a tech device:
Nikki says using a tech device as a babysitter for children is a big no-no. She says children enjoy interaction with their parents, and when mom and dad are not around, an emotional void that a screen can’t fill occurs.
“A laptop or cell phone is no substitute for mom and dad. Children need yes or no answers and they need engagement. When side-lined by a device, they don’t get the answers they need and that’s problematic for them,” she says.
Developing self-regulation and self-discipline are two of life’s fundamentals, and Nikki encourages parents to avoid using a handheld device or computer as an emotional crutch.
“We should not be using a cell phone as the drawcard to get our children to sleep, or even to eat. Often, parents indicate that children can’t do anything without the device and as parents, we need to work on changing that,” she adds.
The experience thief
Technology robs children of real-life experiences essential for their development. According to Nikki, children learn best through concrete learning experiences with real people and real toys, in real time.
“These experiences give our children those multi-sensory experiences of the world, and while technology has so much to offer, we need to ensure that the foundation necessary for their development is set first,” she says.
Xanet is an award-winning journalist and Living and Loving’s digital editor. She has won numerous awards for her health and wellness articles and was a finalist for the Discovery Journalist of the Year in 2009 and again in 2011 for the Discovery Best Health Consumer Reporting and Feature Writing category. She is responsible for our online presence across social media channels and makes sure our moms have fresh and interesting articles to read every day. Learn more about Xanet Scheepers.