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Screen Time for Young Children

A mummy's changed perspective.

Making sure it's safe for your children's eyes and minds.

· parenting tips,motherhood,toddler activities,new mom tips

When I was pregnant with my first child, I formed a lot of ideals in my mind as I observed families with young children around me. One of the things I told myself I WOULD NOT DO, like some other parents, was to let my child watch the iPad during meal times, as I so often witnessed when we ate out.

Boy, am I eating my own words now. LOL

From the time baby was a few months old, my husband and grandparents were keen to show him the wonderful world on our mobile phones. They were trying to entertain baby, or to get him to sit still and have his meals, by showing him youtube videos of nursery rhymes. I was totally uptight and against it. I would say,

"No! Don't show him the phone please. He's too young for it."

"No videos during meal times please. If he doesn't want to eat, he's probably not hungry enough. So let him be."

"Can we please keep him away from the phone until after 2 years old?"

"Or at least after 1 year old?"

Well, subsequently I relented. I gave up. I gave in and allowed him screen time. He was amazed by all the interesting videos on youtube, full of bright colours and catchy music. Beyond 2 years old, he started to learn how to navigate Youtube on his own, moving from nursery rhymes to cartoons, to various toy reviews.

I fully respect parents who have managed to keep gadgets off the dining table. I strongly believe that it's a good family practice. But it has to be a common ideal shared between the spouses and all adults present. How do we ask our children to stop watching videos at the dining table when the adults seated around are busy texting, gaming or youtubing on their mobile devices?

I've told some friends before that it's a losing battle if you don't fully enforce it right from the start before your first child gets his hands on an intriguing gadget. My ideals were gone with the wind. Even though I managed to delay my first child in getting his screen time, when #2 came along and kept seeing his brother playing with the gadget, it was much harder to keep him away. Hence, a losing battle. Then the third one came along, and you can guess what happens. Thankfully, we have enough devices in the house for everybody. Ha

I have to admit I was wrong to judge those parents whom I saw, allowing their children to watch videos during meal times. There was a period of time when I still enforced it and pleaded with the gramps to not let the boys watch videos during meal times. They were allowed to have some screen time in the day, but not at meal times. But we had to distract them with toys or books to keep them seated at the table long enough to finish their meals. I thought toys and books were the lesser evil as compared to Youtube at the dining table. Eventually, I gave up. I realised the boys ate much faster when they were watching TV/iPad and that helped when we had to feed them and get them ready for school in time. I'm not saying this makes screen time during meal times a GOOD thing. But I do realise that we have to choose our fights because there's way too many battles in our journey of parenting and we can't win them all. #dontjudgeme

Yet it is important to set limits. It's always good to know what videos your children are watching so that you can monitor and manage the type of content that they are exposed to. It is helpful to switch your Youtube settings to "Restricted Mode" to avoid having inappropriate content coming up when your children are browsing the videos on their own. 

Young children should not be having screen time for more than 30 minutes in one sitting. In August last year, I noticed my oldest son was blinking very often and squinting. I asked him to read off some words from a distance and true to my suspicions, he had difficulty reading. My heart sank at the thought that he needed spectacles before the age of 5. I was really worried and brought him to the polyclinic where the nurse carried out a 4-year-old milestones check, including a vision test. His vision was 6/9, 6/12. Thankfully the nurse said due to his young age, his condition would improve in 6-12 months time so long we are stringent with allowing him only 30 minutes of screen time. Previously when I wanted time to do my own work, I would let my son watch videos on his own, sometimes for over an hour. I'm glad to say that his condition has really improved. He is no longer squinting or blinking and rubbing his eyes frequently.

If you are still on the winning side of this screen time war, I pray that you will have the strength and determination to persist! Regardless, like what I always say, "Do what keeps you sane!"

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