Growing up in the late 80s/early 90s, I always looked forward to my evenings, especially during the weekends. It’s because that’s the time where I’m allowed to just enjoy myself outdoors — be it cycling with my siblings and friends or just playing at the playground.
Fast forward almost 30 years later and it’s a very different landscape now. Parents (especially in urban areas) just don’t feel safe letting their children play outside as much as before.
This is probably down to the rise in cases of kidnapping, theft, assault, etc. over the years (at least in my country) which obviously would strike fear in just about any parent.
At the same time, the way technology has evolved, coupled that with global warming (either extremely cold or hot weather, depending on which part of the world you’re living in), children just prefer to stay indoors with their gadgets, toys, and favourite TV shows.
Add in the pandemic that we’re going through right now and the dependence that we’ve developed on gadgets (tablets, laptops, computers) for our child’s online learning, their online activity has increased phenomenally.
There’s no denying that the way we raise our children has to be different from the way our parents raised us. It’s probably the same with them. Our parents probably had to raise us different compared to how their parents raised them. It’s just how it is with life, you have to adapt to the change of time.
And that’s why for us, it’s so very important to balance our child’s online and offline activities.
When we were kids, it was almost unthinkable for people to use a handphone. I remember one of my uncle’s had a handphone and it was huge! It was so big, he had to use a special hook to hook it to the side of his trousers and he had to wear a tighter belt so his pants won’t fall off from the weight of the handphone.
That was what a handphone was back in the 90s. Then in the early 2000s, it became smaller and the likes of Nokia got so famous from their trendy and practical handphones that more people started to use them. Even then, it was mostly the adults (or the really rich kids) that would have them because it was still so expensive.
But now, in the era of a smartphone, it has become a whole lot more affordable and also an essential item. Kids as young as 5 are starting to own their own smartphone. And it’s not just for them to play games or watch YouTube videos, but also for them to learn and to do school work.
We can no longer tell them they can’t use their phones or gadgets because it’s not good for them. It is actually good for them but only if used moderately.
I think that my generation of parenting is definitely dependent on technology. We rely on our gadgets to help with our children. When we’re stressed out from a full day’s work and just want to unwind a little bit but our kids are constantly disturbing us, what do we do? We pass them a phone to distract them while we get some much deserved peace and quiet.
However, if we’re not careful, that can easily become a bad habit which would be hard to break. Not only would our kids get so used to being given a phone to distract them, but we would be so used to just giving them a gadget.
It becomes an addiction for them and once it hits that stage, it’s not going to be easy to break away from it.
That’s why, balancing it out is so important and 2 good ways to do so are:
It isn’t hard to guess what playtime means and I can only stress the importance of being involved in their playtime as much as you possibly can as a parent. When it’s playtime for your child, make sure that it doesn’t involve any form of screen whatsoever.
Make it entirely physical with old-school toys. It can be figurines, LEGOs or just about anything that will help to stimulate your child’s mind.
When a kid enjoys playtime, they won’t bother so much about screens and gadgets. We have to remember that at a kid’s core, playing is what they enjoy the most. Even if it’s just running around the house, shouting and laughing, they’ll enjoy that more than being on a phone.
Let them have their screen time but also let them play with their imagination. Let them play and play with them.
My son’s Pediatrician always remind my wife and I that for kids, there should be no screens after dinner, especially a few hours before bedtime. It’s to allow the mind to relax and to be calmed.
It’s fine during the day time but not at night.
That’s why for my wife and I, my son is not allowed any screentime after 6pm as he usually goes to sleep by 9.30pm-10pm. That gives him about 3–4 hours of no screens to just relax and do some light playing with his toys or read his books before he sleeps.
We realized that it also helps him to sleep better at night. Downtime is essential for a child and their quality of sleep.
As much as we’re dependent on technology and screens in our daily lives, we can’t let it take over our child’s life. As easy as it is to just leave them with a screen to keep them occupied, it will do more harm than good in the long run. If it’s harmful to us as adults, imagine how much more to a kid?
While they will still be having their screens and going online every now and then, as parents, we need to make sure it’s all balanced out nicely with their playtime too.
After all, too much of anything (even if it’s something good) is never good for us in the long run. So, let’s balance things out as nicely as we can.
Our children will thank us for it in the future.