While children deserve the freedom to enjoy digital activities, there is a need to balance time spent on these through a ‘digital detox’. Given the multiscreen era that we are currently living in, it is unsurprising that learning how to ‘unplug’ is a test for most people, including children of today’s generation. With smartphones, tablets, laptops and gaming consoles within easy reach, gone are the days that we can leave the house without a device or two.
At a recent panel session organised by ZooMoo, a television channel for preschool children featuring animals, this topic along with the challenge of raising a child in the digital era was discussed. Keeping away from technology might not be feasible in today’s circumstances, however there are some ways for parents and children alike to balance their time spent on screens.
Redefining the concept of balance
Most parents have an impression that if their child is watching TV or playing games, they are not getting any educational value as it is thought the primary purpose of these activities is purely for fun. However, as technology plays a big role in our lives, it is not about the removal but the mindfulness of using it. Instead of setting parameters on the amount of time allowed, the smarter approach is to know what content their child consumes and how they react to it.
“Parents need to be the gatekeepers for their child’s time and activities spent on screens. Similar to any other activity such as play time, kids do not know when to stop and are likely to be upset when they are told to. It is about understanding your child and what works for them,” Dr. Shen-Li Lee, parenting expert and author of Brainchild stated.
During the session, a question on the effects of exposure to technology on a child’s social development was raised. Although current research doesn’t provide conclusive answer to whether or not there is a direct negative or positive impact on children, the main consensus is that consuming digital media in moderation is key.
“Screen time is not necessarily a bad thing as it can be used as an educational tool or part of bonding time. My girls and I enjoy watching ZooMoo and learning about the animals together,” said Aishah Sinclair, celebrity mom of two, radio DJ and ZooMoo brand ambassador.
Role model for healthy digital habits
Throughout the early years of development, one of the methods children will learn is through imitation. Watching their parents practice a well-balanced screen time routine will have a positive impact on children. Some examples include picking up a book to read, spending time outdoors, or even the simple action of putting away devices at the dinner table.
Relating to her personal experience, Aishah said “sometimes hiding the iPad from my girls does not work as they catch me using my mobile phone to answer urgent work emails. As parents, we need to ensure that we set good examples for our children to understand and emulate.”
Content that matters
Restricting technology may not be the best way to navigate the digital space. Dr. Lee cited an example that although PC/video games are often associated with the negative effects they have on children, there is some underlying value for their development including problem-solving skills and creativity. In addition, depending on the type of game, they can also be exposed to real-life scenarios such as trading.
Similarly, ZooMoo’s approach to content aims to provide a safe environment for children to learn through animals and the world they live in. Through collaborations with child and educational experts, the content curated and format of programming is designed to entertain while stimulating young minds and bodies.
“As a channel that believes in the power of technology, we embrace it and encourage children to be exposed to it from a young age. It is not something that can be avoided as a child grows up and conditioning them in the proper use of technology early would be beneficial,” Catherine Nebauer, General Manager, ZooMoo Networks for Australasia said.
In this age of the digital world, there is no way to implement a total black-out on technology. Rather, like with any other activity, there is a suitable time and place, and it is up to parents to find ways to balance quality time both on-screen and off.
The panel session was held at the newly opened Parenthood family park in Sunway Pyramid Mall, in conjunction with ZooMoo’s Big Day Out. Hundreds of participants took part in the many activities that was organised for families to bond and have a fun time. Parents and children were kept engaged throughout with puppet and origami workshops.