“With self-discipline, most anything is possible.” – Theodore Roosevelt
Unlike the generations that preceded them, today’s children have grown up with an array of gadgets and electronic devices. It is impossible for them to imagine a world without laptops, smartphones, and pads. It’s quite an irony that the year 2020 proved to be quite ironic in this regard: while parents around the world were trying to keep screen time-limited for their kids, the pandemic suddenly forced the entire human race to go online!
Perhaps for the first time in history, we witnessed children from across the globe being encouraged to spend more time online for learning purposes. Right from connecting with friends, to online classes for kids, to sharing yummy recipes and of course entertainment, suddenly we all turn to the digital world. However, it’s been almost a year of the globe going digital and we are now beginning to read about the side-effects of prolonged screen time we (not just the younger lot) have all been exposed to.
Here are some ill-effects on children recognized by experts from respected institutes –
Behavior issues (tantrums, violence, and meltdown)
Early-onset of headaches
However, these are rectifiable events in childhood itself. Anything that is in moderation proves harmless in the long run. And this philosophy plays a major part in the remedies suggested by me below –
Establish rules for electronics
Set certain rules of engagement when it comes to electronic devices, anything that has a screen on it and requires digital interaction. This will go a long way to keeping screen time not only short but also meaningful. Some basics like no screen time in the car or while traveling, and letting no phones in bedrooms, etc. should help.
Official no screen hour
For a whole hour every day (and the timeline should keep changing to keep things interesting), children should be encouraged to stay completely offline. This approach will make them aware of all the non-online activities that they were missing out on earlier.
Device-free meal times
We are fast becoming a generation that doesn’t know how to taste food properly. Being in a hurry, we underestimate the importance of having our meal properly. The best way to ensure our kids don’t adopt these unhealthy practices is to coax them to have food without any digital distraction.
Basic eye exercises
Yoga features many effective eye exercises that not only help relax our eyes but also rejuvenate our optical muscles. Even basic exercises like rapid blinking of the eyes and then shutting them intermediately can be very helpful for children. Similarly, rubbing palms and cupping the eyes helps a lot. With this information, you’ll teach your child to get a grip on the damage caused by over-exposure to screens.
Play old school games
Staring contests might sound like a cliche from the past but there are benefits to conscious observation. When you engage in these little traditional activities, you’ll realize that your child is slowly becoming aware of what ‘staring’ is all about. As of now, children don’t know that they are staring in the first place.
Make screen time productive
Keep a mental note of how much time is being spent by your child on which channel and platform. Until a certain age, they need utmost attention in deciding what is good or bad for them.
All these learnings and thoughts are shared keeping in mind my experience in practicing and teaching Yoga to children.