Much has been said and written about screen time and its (ill) effects but with the exceptional circumstances that we have been living in this year, 2020 can rightfully be also called the “Year of the Screen”. Many parents are strained by the added responsibility of supervising their children during the day in addition to their typical responsibilities. Allowing children extra screen time during quarantine gives parents a brief respite and some much-needed time to focus on work and other household chores.
But, is all screen time bad? Being a mother to two young children, for the longest time, I was against devices. But with technology becoming so intertwined in our world, whether that be at work or school, I was reluctantly forced to start accepting that, like it or not, it has become an integral part of our world.
How can we as parents go from limiting tech to becoming tech-positive and successfully guide and raise “digital natives” who can seamlessly navigate the real and virtual worlds?
The internet has a wealth of information, however finding the right content from a plethora of choices can be difficult, if not downright daunting. A lot of content aimed at children is dreary and mindless (think unboxing and surprise egg videos), created with the sole purpose of generating clicks and increasing ad revenue. And all too often, children are never more than a few clicks away from potentially harmful content. My defining moment came one night, when on the drive home, I had to console my very upset 7-year-old, who along with his friends had unwittingly come across a disturbing video while browsing online.
That triggered the mother in me to start looking into ways in which I could keep children safe while browsing online and eventually led to the creation of Amaze Kids. Amaze Kids is a free educational app with a fun, handpicked selection of videos that kids will love, brought to them in a safe, secure, ad-free environment. My mission with Amaze Kids is not just to create a safe, digital space, but to encourage and inspire children to see the world in a new way through the videos curated for them.
As an entrepreneur focused on bringing quality screen time to children, my aim is to rethink content to be more engaging, fun, accessible and relevant to children and bring in a love for learning. From wonderful read-aloud stories to singalong songs, fun science experiments & cool documentaries or arts & crafts and dance, I want each video in Amaze Kids to be the beginning of a journey that promotes learning and discovery. To me, creativity is not just a strong inclination towards arts and music, it is what drives all of us to discover new opportunities and new solutions to different situations.
Good, healthy screen time is one which engages the child and helps them learn. It is also important that we as parents engage in conversations based on our child’s screen time. Talk to them about what they have been watching, whether that be their favourite series or songs or a video about The Universe. The quality of the content and your engagement with your child after, help them process what they have just watched and lead to meaningful interactions.
Not all screen time is the same. We need to think about time limit versus content limit. If our child is creating or learning something on a digital device, that is time that is being spent differently to time spent mindlessly surfing online. And as we all know, too much of anything is bad and the same goes for screen time as well, so remember to set fixed consistent limits and balance it out with physical activity, social interaction and sleep. As parents, we can also set a positive example by enforcing screen limits for ourselves and making time for off-screen activities with our children.
We live in a truly unique time, when, as parents, the world with its infinite knowledge and resources is at our fingertips. So, use it wisely to empower your child to grow and shape their world. With a bit of care, we can all emerge from these times stronger than ever and well prepared for the digital future that lies ahead for us and our children.
Nanda Balasubramanian is the founder of Amaze Kids Edutainment. During the pandemic this year, she launched the AMAZE KIDS app. She is a winner of Digital Women Awards 2020 in SOLOPRENEURS category.
The views expressed are the author’s own.