Screen time evokes control, parental control as we talk about kids. Advice abound, online and offline, on how to manage screens for kids. No parenting discussion would ever be complete without the topic of screen time for kids. Quite a bit of parent-children communication centres on this subject.
Have you ever wondered how and why screen time brings forth friction and squabble? For an inevitable event, why should there be a push and pull for every aspect of the event? Why cannot there be a mutually acceptable common ground that makes everyone happy? Surely, nobody wants to be miserable about something that has become an integral part of life for everyone.
This leads us to the topic of positive screen time. While anyways we are at it, why not make every bit of it worth-while? Positive screen time is about children having good exposure and learning from it. It is about children having nice memories of their screen time. In short, making it a fun and enjoyable experience that children would look forward to growing up with.
So, how do we go about doing this? (Disclaimer: I am writing this as a stay-at-home father to soon-to-be six years old twin daughters. My experiences are hands-on, related to my daughters’ age and their growing up, and may not apply to higher age-groups).
Positive screen time is a family time
Look at it simply. Children are anyways going to watch, why not watch together? It has so many benefits.
A parent need not worry about the content at all. A parent knows what’s running, so will not come up with an abrupt end, a major tug-of-war point. There will be no time spent in instructing the children on what to see and what not to see and also checking the history of what the children finally saw.
Positive screen time is also about role-modelling. When the children see that all the adults in the house are busy pouring over their screens, s/he finds it obvious to do with one’s self. Indulging in screens ideally with both the parents or practically with one parent, children get the idea that doing this activity alone is not that enjoyable and not worthy enough to pursue.
With the children’s quota of screen time getting over as a collective family task, it leaves equal time for children to engage with each other as well as the parents. Imagine having everyone in the house watching screens at different intervals. Where the heck would be the time to even greet each other? Leave aside having a meaningful conversation or doing any task together.
Yes, there is a drawback. The parents do not get to act as adults in terms of having their screen time.
Screen time content as a means to foster common interest
Family viewing allows parents to introduce to children what they enjoyed in their childhood, or for that matter what they enjoy even now. There is enough variety in kids programming that can keep the adults, having varied interests, hooked up as well.
Consuming screen time together also works in shepherding children’s interests and trying to bring them on the same platform as their parents. The added benefit is that this hand-holding happens implicitly. There are no overt instructions, not even a mention of anything, children get their screen time and absorb along the way.
The only thing to keep in mind is that parents need to cross-check before-hand so that they do not end up watching what they don’t like and also, what they would not want their children to watch.
Positive screen time as a conversation tool
Simply put, positive screen time is active, and not passive. Meaning, parents pause the screen and talk to children about what’s happening on the screen. This applies to children of any age, and not just older children.
The programme is communicating to the audience – children and parents. Left on their own, it is difficult to gauge what the children are interpreting and it may show up in their behaviour and thinking in the most unexpected manner. The parents need to ensure that children get the message – explicit, implicit, intended, unintended, black, white and the many shades of grey along with.
The dialogue about what transpired during the videos can very well happen during the day. The characters of the programme can become a part of everyday household chores and keep conveying their messages, basis the parents’ imagination and application. This helps in broadening children’s perspective and imbibing learning from any source.
Screen time is here to stay. Whilst children are at it, let’s try and ensure that it does some good too, for the children as well as the parents.
Positive screen time for kids with the active involvement of parents has the potential to do just that. It encompasses discretion, quality, quantity and also the impact of screen time.
What would be your thoughts on the subject?