Screen time is definitely quite important for a child in today’s generation. It helps children go head to head with the world in terms of education, socializing and expression. But if you are a parent, you should always understand the difference between h

 It’s important for a child of any age to have access to a variety of leisurely activities for recreational and educational purposes.  Although electronic devices are one of the most popular forms of recreation, it is also important to make sure they have access to books, music, dance, sports, activities in nature, visual arts and other creative activities. Physical activities such as dance, sports, yoga are also important for mental health and well-being. They bring awareness to the body and help the mind relax and rejuvenate. Leisure activities also allow kids to socialize with peers with similar interests which is important for their social development. In such a situation of varying options, the question then arises, “How much screen time should children get?”

 

In an interview with Dr. Prathama Raghavan, a Mental Health and Disability professional, she shed some light on the question. “Watching TV, playing games, using social media or watching videos, etc. on the internet is important, since this is a medium that has become a part of our daily lives. Children should be introduced to it age appropriately. I think 16 is a good age for teens to start using social media.  If parents don’t allow it, they will find a way anyway. But managing the kind of content that children are accessing is important. Learning to use the computer or tablets and telephones at a young age can be important, since this is quickly becoming the only way we communicate and is an important safety measure in many situations. I think learning to use a cell phone today is like learning to use a telephone in previous generations. But I would say till a child is 16 years of age, I still don’t see the need for them to have their own phones.”

 

Having established that in today’s day and age, learning how to operate technology is a must for even children, we moved on to the next big question: What does screen time have to offer a child? Here, Ms. Raghavan said,” I strongly believe that technologies have many things to offer. They are inclusive by nature and therefore are a great resource for children with all kinds of difficulties, disabilities and differences. For example, social media and messaging might offer ways of interaction for introverted children that are better adapted to their temperament than socializing in person. It also allows for socializing with people not in their physical lives which can be important for children who feel like misfits. Audio books, text to speech applications can be an excellent resource for all ages. Audio books on phones and tablets allow children to learn to read and understand phonetics easily. There are a huge number of educational applications that are interesting and teach in ways that humans cannot. For young children screen time should be with the parents or older family members making it a shared experience. Parents should also spend time reading books with their children. It serves the same purpose and allows for conversations about the book.”

 

With that being said, Ms. Raghavan also talked about the thin line between the importance of screen time and over indulgence with technology. She states, “A balance is important. I am not an advocate for putting your child in front of the TV to get your work done, but I know that this is sometimes necessary, it should just be controlled. Screen time will be automatically regulated if the child has access to other activities as well. For example, eating meals together as a family is important for children and teens. Mealtime is a good time to share the day’s experiences and build an open communication system with your children. This should be prioritized. I would not recommend watching TV or videos while having dinner on a regular basis for children (or adults in fact). I believe that up to the age of 16, content on the internet accessed by children should be controlled and adapted to their age and developmental level.”

 

For 16-18 year old teens, it is important to educate them about privacy and sharing of information, photos, videos, etc. on social media and the risks involved. Social media has become one of the mediums for bullying, and cyber bullying is very real. Any information we share online is permanently there. Everyone should be conscious of this when sharing private information on social media. Parents need to keep communication open with their teens of all ages so they feel comfortable reporting any abuse they may experience online (or offline). Teens sometimes feel pressured to have telephones or share information on social media due to pressure from their peers. In case any cyber bullying occurs it is important to not blame the victim of the bullying even if they may have exhibited risky behavior. Nobody deserves to be bullied.