Before I was a parent, I wondered why parents allowed their young children to watch videos on the iPad while having their meals. I thought to myself, "I'm sure not going to let my child do that!"
Oh boy, am I eating my words now.
For my first child, I was very insistent on not giving my son any screen time.
I told my husband we need to keep screen time away from my child, hopefully, only expose him after he turns two... or at least after one.
Well, whenever it's daddy's turn to take care of the baby, somehow the baby will end up watching daddy play his game on the phone.
Those times happen during the minutes when I'm away in the shower or doing some household chores. And I'd be like, "Why can't you just entertain the baby for a few minutes without the phone?"
He'd be like, "Well, a few minutes of screen time won't do any harm!"
When the grandparents are taking care of the child and he refused to eat properly, they would fish out the phone to get him distracted.
Or if my son was crying uncontrollably and I wasn't around to comfort him, the grandparents would also find something on the phone to distract the child.
I felt like I was the 'bad guy' all the time when I had to keep asking the grandparents to put the mobile gadgets away when I return home.
It's not like I want to be the wet blanket and stop my son from having fun, by somebody's has to do the policing right?
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It is funny how our parents raised us without Internet or mobile devices and yet they are the ones using these to pacify or entertain their grandchildren.
It certainly is easy, I know.
The mobile phone is full of wonders that can engage the young child, be it photos, YouTube or any games, place a gadget in the child's hands, and they can be kept occupied for quite a while.
Yea. So I finally understood why parents give their children gadgets during meal times.
I suppose it is not the best mealtime etiquette, but it sure takes a lot of discipline and reinforcement from the adults.
Both parents need to be agreeable about setting family mealtime rules. I mean, how can I get my child not to look at the phone when my husband is playing his game the whole time?
But I am also guilty of choosing the easy way out -- if letting the child watch some videos will allow him to sit properly and eat better, why not?
When number two came along, it was simply easier to keep the older child occupied so I could focus on feeding the young one.
But then when the younger one sees the older sibling with the gadget, he also gets curious!
And so, the younger siblings are exposed to screen time at a younger age.
If you don't curb the first child from having screen time, it simply gets worse when you have more children.
I have learned not to be judgemental of other parents and their ways of managing their children. After all, I don't want to be criticized for my chosen parenting methods as well.
To all those parents who have successfully let away screen time from their young children, hats off to you!
To all those parents who allow their children with screen time, please do be mindful to limit 30 minutes of screen time at each sitting.
I have to admit I'm not that stringent all the time, but 30 minutes is indeed the recommended length of time for screen exposure if you want to prevent or delay your children from getting myopia.
At four years old, my older son was having blurred vision and I brought him for an eye checkup.
Thankfully, his condition didn't warrant the use of prescription lenses but the clinician did say to limit screen time to 30 minutes.
The good thing about being young is that the children's bodies are still very adaptable.
Limit screen time and their blurred vision can still be reversed or at the very least, controlled and not worsen.
With well-controlled usage of screen time, what are the benefits of allowing children screen time?
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3 Benefits of Screen Time for Kids
1) Children can pick up good linguistic skills and broaden their vocabulary if the videos they watch are in fluent languages. This is especially helpful if children are taken care of by domestic helpers or grandparents who may not speak English very well.
2) Children can learn about different countries and cultures which they are not exposed to in their natural environment.
3) Many cartoons are very educational and interactive these days. Children can learn problem-solving skills, creativity, teamwork, and even math and science by watching their favorite cartoon characters in action.
That said, it is very important for parents and caregivers to monitor what the children are watching.
How can we set limitations on screen time for our young children?
3 Ways to Set Limitations on Screen Time For Young Children
1) Limit screen time to 30 minutes in one sitting and up to 3 times through the day. The screen should also be placed at eye level and the tablet should be at least 30cm away.
2) Turn on "restricted mode" in the YouTube settings to the prevent videos of mature content from appearing in the feed. Or you can download YouTube kids instead.
3) Keep an ear on what videos are being watched by your children. There are many home-made videos on YouTube these days.
You should familiarize yourself with which are suitable for your children depending on your tolerance level on the use of languages; some videos may be quite crude.
Young children are very impressionable. I know my boys have certainly picked up quite a number of new words from YouTube.
Thankfully, so far, all the words have served to expand their vocabulary in a positive manner.
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So even if you are too busy to watch what your children are watching, it is always helpful to keep an ear on them.
On weekdays, my children still enjoy meal times in front of the TV. Thankfully, my boys, age 5 and 4, have outgrown their need to have screen time when we dine outside.
I believe that with age and maturity, children become more reasonable and are better at focusing on their food without having specific distractions.
I still indulge my daughter with screen time even while dining outside.
I'd rather placate her so that we can all eat peacefully than to have her scream and fuss while I'm trying to enjoy a family meal out.
Giving her a small toy or a sticker book are usually my first line of defense until she loses interest in them.
Yes if we give in every time our children throw a tantrum, we are only reinforcing to them that they can get their way by kicking up a huge fuss.
Onlookers, please don't judge me. At the end of the day, it's really just about keeping my sanity while managing three young children. We just have to pick our battles. After all, we can't win everything. (Read: Do Your Best and Let God Do the Rest)
When my daughter finishes up all her food without any fuss while watching YouTube, and I can have a meaningful conversation with my husband and my boys when we are dining out, I still take that as a win.
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