Here's the reality: kids are just using more gadgets whether we like it or not. The minute you introduce it they are hooked, playing and watching every chance they get and probably longer than It even has a name: screen addiction. For so many parents, screen time is part of family life. Should we feel guilty?
In an article for Mamamia, Dana Morse, who works as a nanny in Australia, offers this: maybe parents should focus on what are the kids using these electronic devices for, and not how long they are on it. Her point of view comes from having worked for two families -- one with strict screen-time rules and one without rules.
Dana’s responsibility was to shepherd the kids once they get out of school in the afternoon up until their parents come home at night. She’s with them during the part of the day where most children do their assignments and then afterward are free to do what they want, like use gadgets.
Dana wrote that Family One had no restrictions on their kids' screen time, but only after they finished their homework. Once it's done, they were free to go on their tablets or watch TV or play with toys or outside.
The parents of Family Two were stricter than Family One. After 5 p.m., the children were allowed only a limited time to use the devices. The effect, however, was the opposite of what the parents wanted.
“They are constantly nagging me to let them use their devices early, and more than once they have snuck in a few minutes with iPads before their allocated time,” shared Dana. “When it comes to Family Two, I seem to be always managing nagging and sneaky behavior when it comes to screens, and after speaking with the parents, I know that they do too. The kids know that they are not allowed screens -- but are constantly trying to bend the rules.”
It’s a scenario that’s probably familiar to a lot of parents. Banning gadgets from children altogether can lead to temper tantrums and rebellious behavior. But, on the other hand, free reign gadget use is never a good idea. Perhaps the best thing parents can do is to learn how to best work with gadgets, not against them, said Michelle Lichauco-Tambunting, co-founder and directress of Young Creative Minds Preschool and a master's degree-holder in education from Harvard.
“We're living in a world where the digital age is here. It's a reality. It's a tool that's necessary,” said Michelle. “If there's something my 9-year-old son doesn't know, the first thing he does is do a search for it online. We are living in a digital age that's just going to get complex and complicated. If I stop him from it, mahuhuli siya.”
For Dana, gadgets should not be a problem if we teach our kids responsible gadget use, and we monitor the apps they are allowed to use.
“The problem with the way Australian kids’ use of screens at the moment is they're exceeding the recommended daily amount of screen-time with mostly passive use,” she said, an issue that plagues many Pinoy families as well. “Passive use” is when the screen-time activity doesn’t require engagement from the user. Watching YouTube videos can be considered passive use. Playing a coding app is active use.
“If your kids are constantly nagging to use screens, then maybe you should consider compromising and allowing them to use some active learning or movement based games (like those on the Nintendo Wii),” suggested Dana.
Like Dana, Lichauco-Tambunting also advises involving the kids in making screen time rules. In her household, parents and child sit down to talk, make the rules clear, and then sign an agreement. “We want [my son] to feel that we're trying to include him in the decision-making process,” she says.
The written and signed agreement will make the rule implementation a lot easier for parents. When your child complains about his screen-time, remind her that you talked about the rules and that she agreed with them, Michelle explained. Her son has 30 minutes of free screen-time use, and it’s up to him whether he wants to use it all in one go or break it down to 15 minutes each, one for now and another for later. “He’s learned to time by himself already,” she shared.