M R LALU | FEBRUARY 20, 2022, 12:50 AM IST

The digital environment is a reality influencing most of our lives. Changing day by day, with more sophistication and inventions, the whole digital scenario is getting revolutionized. A new generation, growing with digital gadgets like computers, tablets and mobile phones is bound to have a different view on learning. Trying to tie it on to what an old generation believed and practised would be improper. Undoubtedly, the present generation is much more intertwined and deeply engraved into what we call a digital world. 

Parents need to have more patience to understand the children of today who grow immersed in the possibilities of technology. For parents, jumping to conclusions, pretending to be a probable diagnosis, to what a situation that the present generation is undergoing, will be dangerous in a digital environment. Situations like the absence of passionate communication among family members, lack of understanding, improper judgement, lack of unbiased love and acceptance are issues that silently creep into most of the families. Issues pertaining to mental health, obesity and behavioural changes are sure to crop up.

Experts are of the opinion that prolonged screen time is bound to bring adverse situations affecting sleep, relationships, diet, social interaction and family relationships. A rapid change with unpredictable momentum, digital learning, digital entertainment and digital upbringing would remain a reality. Most of the parents, with a childhood spent in the absence of digital marvels like mobile phones and social media, need to educate themselves about the fast-changing digital environment.

WHO Directives

Amid this swift progress of digitalization, institutions such as the World Health Organization (WHO) came out with directives for the children of the digital age. It suggests no screen time for toddlers up to 24 months. And to the kids of 2 to 5 years, the organization recommends an hour or less screen time a day. There may be differences in assumptions on accuracies as to what should be the time allotted to kids on screen. But one thing is sure that the parents need to know as to what is the digital requirement of their child. To assess the adverse effect of screen time, segregating it from other issues may not be easy. A child, being part of society, is easily exposed to a variety of influences. To detect the ill effects of what the child is exposed to is tough. For parents, what makes the situation difficult is to make alternatives to the standard of digital learning available to their kids. Children of the preschool age need special attention and focus. It is necessary to understand what kind of alternative will satisfy their level and quest for entertainment. Most of the parents fail to feed their babies without videos or cartoons played to them on the mobile screen. For some, thrusting mobile phones in the hands of their kids help them to take up their daily chores without their children doggedly pestering them around. Normal toys seem to become outdated and out of sight in most families.

Digital World

Are screens effective in imparting the right kind of knowledge to children? When it comes to face-to-face interactions, the child has immense scope to cope with varying life-giving tendencies and impulses which the screen normally fails to deliver. Various studies suggest that real learning takes place when a child is put to the face-to-face interactive learning process. What is detrimental about digital learning is that most of the time, children from economically backward classes fail to make use of it in a better way than the children from well-to-do families. As children grow, the time they spend on screen is natural to increase. The adverse influence of television, social media and video games will be at least a reality to many parents. 

Socio-economic factors cannot be denied as they influence the time that children spend on screens. Social security concerns can also be the reasons behind some parents thrusting screen devices into the hands of kids. It is justifiable to them as they perceive a security threat in certain areas where less social amiability exists. Children coming out of their houses mingling with the rest of society is mostly not encouraged due to this unfavourable security atmosphere. To the tiny toddlers, prolonged screen time is seen to be curtailing the quality of their sleep, which according to some studies is in proportion to the time they sit at the screen.

Health Hazard

Parents have to ensure that the time that a child spends on screen does not take away his mental and physical wellness. As the child spends more time on the screen, he gradually enters into critical cyberspaces where children of his age are not welcome. In a family, parents have to consciously make decisions about what choices they should help their children with regard to the content on the screen. It is as important as the food that they choose to serve their kids with. The prolonged time spent on screen genuinely steals the time that the child should essentially use for creative, sensible social interactions. By reducing physical activity, screen time can accelerate lethargy among the children pushing them through multiple health hazards. A well-managed screen time can definitely contribute to the learning process of the child. 

Digital media can of course help the child to communicate with the people who are away from them. Undoubtedly, some apps can support children to delve into serious reading and help them learn and practice various physical exercises, yoga and much more. But while thrusting a screen device in the hands of a child, the parent should also be conscious about the need of making quality interventions with the child. The more screen time at a younger age, the more will be the exposure of alien contents to the child. How to best manage screen time is a challenge.

Negative Impact

With a vast range of electronic devices at their fingertips, today’s children are far ahead of what their previous generation had to go through at this age. Therefore, the parents of today have to figure out ways to limit the screen time of their kids. Surveys and studies accentuate the negative impacts of too much screen time. Exposure to violent television shows and video games on mobile screens are seen to be impacting the children, subsequently turning them violent towards petty situations, both at home and in learning places. More time on the screen reduces qualitative conversations in families and naturally, a mental distance between parents and children takes place. 

Parents need to show the way for their children. What is more important for the parents is to keep a healthy boundary for all types of digital enjoyment in the family. They have to sacrifice their screen interest to a large extent to ideally streamline screen time for their kids.

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