Does your child suddenly speak with a British accent? Chances are, she is hooked on Peppa Pig. Is slime-making an utmost concern? Check how many hours she spent logged on to Youtube watching D.I.Y. video tutorials. Are you having a hard time asking her to put her gadgets down and have an actual conversation that lasts for more than half a minute? We feel you. It’s hard to raise a “low media child” nowadays when everything revolves around a screen. All the studies will tell you that too much gadget use for children will not benefit them, nor you in the long run. Is there still a way back to a time called B.G. or Before Gadgets, or would you just go insane in the attempt? Well we’re here to tell you that with a few changes, it is possible! Here’s how.
Nobody said it was easy, and curbing screen time will surely bring on tears, pleas, and tantrums. But with the end goal in mind, start off with controlling the access to the remote control. I’ve seen kids below the age of two know how to operate Smart TV remotes; and while that may be somewhat impressive, it just reflects how much media has infiltrated their minds. Keep the remote control or gadget somewhere he can’t easily access it. For older kids, create a discussion. Talk about limits and parameters, and compromise on a time allowance for gadget use. Others may try to quit cold turkey, and if you know you have the guts to stick to your decision, then go for it. The point is, create a change in behavior.
For those with younger kids, experts really vouch for Montessori-type toys. Busy boards, sensory toys, and the like will help them wean off and be on their way to becoming a low-media child. It’s also advisable to keep the shelves and toy racks or bins low and accessible, so that they can easily find alternatives to their tablets and game controllers. Make playtime experiential! Eventually, you would have paved the way for self-directed play, wherein your child becomes less demanding and is then able to have independent playtime. This can reverse the altering effects of media, and instead encourage discovery, creativity, and imagination.
This takes some getting used to, as well as actual time spent getting your child to hone in on an activity. Teach him how to copy his favorite tune on the keyboard or guitar, and while you’re at it, chime in and be his backup maracas player! If your child is crafty, a good way to get him busy is through arts and crafts, and there are a million do-it-yourself activities these days. Indeed, slime-making is messy business, but it does do the trick, and there are many different kinds you can make together. You can also do painting-related activities together. And remember, celebrate the effort as well as the artistic output!
When you go through the weaning off process, try not to stay too cooped up at home! Take your family out to a park or take a hike. Yes, involving the whole family would do this effort good because it isn’t just your child who has to lay off on the gadget use. Everyone has to pitch in, and pitching a tent can do wonders for anybody who needs to actually flex muscles outside of playing video games. Set up playdates and hold them in a park where you and your families can enjoy a nice picnic. Or, you could always go on that nature trip you’ve always wanted to try but never had the guts or the motivation for.
When you let your child stew inside the house with nothing to do, chances are, he will gravitate towards the easiest, most digestible form of entertainment. So why don’t you invest in his physical and mental wellness by enrolling him in a class? There are plenty all year long, and all you, as the parent have to do is observe what sort of things interest him. Would he be up for a painting class? Wall climbing? Football? Biking? Gymnastics? Singing and dancing? Whatever it may be, it would take some effort and time from your end, but this keeps your child’s mind from wandering off towards the latest video games.
The most important part in this journey is your participation. You can’t just bark off orders to keep him from using gadgets 24/7 when you are, in fact, even more glued. You also have to pitch in and try to have real face-to-face time instead of communicating via different messaging apps. You can also raise a low-media child through really sitting down with him when he wants to build a 10,000 piece puzzle, and pretend you have a clue where the next piece goes.
Part and parcel of parenting is guidance, time, and effort. If you’re reading this, then chances are, you are up for the challenge. Remember: You’ve got this!