Children and Gadgets – How Much is Too Much?

For the last time, no taking calls or checking messages during dinner time.”

“Wait, instead of studying, you were playing games online?!”“Why don’t you go out and talk to real people instead of staying cooped up at home with your laptop?”

If you have had the cause to direct any of the above statements at your children, then you, like me, may already have a strong suspicion that your child is perhaps getting too addicted to their device/s.

Generation Y has become inseparable from their devices. Phones clutched in the palms of their hands, they act like their lives depend on their gadgets and have this phobia of losing out on life (FOMO- fear of missing out, anyone?) with earphones always plugged in their ears. Some of them have already started wearing the smart watch- what better way to gather the best of real-time updates from social media platforms along with the time of the day?

All these devices paired or otherwise, mean something critical is wrong. Young users are devoting an unusually disproportionate part of their time to such devices. Much of it is often at the cost of academics, sports, hobbies and offline socialising. Children spend hours using their devices, quite oblivious to the real people in the real world around them. Excessive use of the net or device, which interferes with normal life, is termed as internet addiction. Like any other psychological condition, this problem calls for professional attention. Today, the question that every parent has is how much is too much? Is 2-3 hours a day online fine for tweens? Or 7-8 hours of gaming OK for young adults on weekends? Does a tween need to spend some time daily chatting and surfing?

And most importantly, when should I as a parent draw the line?

Moving on to the more difficult territory of how should I react if they get abusive and rebellious when asked to stay off the internet? For one, we don’t want our children to ever reach that stage and therefore our aim should always be to ensure that children use devices, but in a balanced manner, so that they become responsible users. We need to make it clear to them that overuse is akin to abuse.

Some of the signs of developing device/net addiction among children can be diagnosed if they:

  • Spend long hours on the net; no interest in any other activity
  • Are reserved and generally quiet in real life situations but surprisingly very active and chatty on networking platforms
  • Lose sense of time when playing games online
  • Consider their earphones to have become an additional appendage
  • Feel that social events bore them and would prefer to sit at a corner glued to their device in the rare occasion of them attending one social event in real life
  • Look drowsy and dull
  • Suffer from headaches and red-eye syndrome due to lack of sleep
  • Suffer from a drop in academic performance
  • Uses phone or tab or laptop secretly at night to play games, chat, message
  • Get agitated if device is taken away or forced to spend time away from it

Once you’ve identified and ascertained that these things are happening it is time to take a stand. As they often say, prevention is better than cure, so it’s best not to let the problem get out of hand. The trick is to start at the very beginning, when your toddler is just becoming interested in gadgets and devices.

Get off the device, get a life!!

You heard me right. This is what you can try to tell your child but only in a more logical and subtle manner. Try an extra scoop of love and sprinkle the sweetness of patience. However stay firm too!

Here are a few tips to ensure that your children lead a balanced digital life?

  • Be strict about time limits for gadget use, right from the start
  • Sit down to have a chat with kids, laying down general house rules for device use and specially for internet usage
  • Remain firm about your decisions by not letting your child take undue advantage of your affection
  • Spend some time daily with the child, striking a conversation is key towards having healthy discussions
  • Get your child interested in sports, hobbies, reading and make sure he/she spends allotted time on these activities
  • Introduce digital detox time for kids e.g. dinner time and Sundays when all devices must be kept away and this time must be spent with family or friends in real life
  • Using devices post bedtime is a strict no-no; never allow your child to bend this rule
  • Try to keep a close watch over their activities online; you want to be on the same page as them and help them become a safe and responsible device and net user
  • Fix exact timings for project work research so you don’t get fooled
  • If you feel your child is lying or using someone else’s device, tackle it immediately. Don’t ignore

It is very much necessary and important for parents to be a part of the digital lives of their children. Of course, it goes without telling that all your connected devices should have comprehensive security software running with parental controls activated. Only then will you be able to monitor any untoward activities that children may be engaging with, online and in real-time.

Here’s to Digital Wellness of Generation Y.


Bodyshaming! Be aware of this rising menace

Hello All,

We have officially entered the last month of 2015. These years just seem to fly by faster every year, isn’t it? I for one eagerly look forward to the prospective of spending quality time with the family during the holiday season; pretty sure, you do too!

Since most families do come together during this period, I thought it will be a great opportunity to discuss a rising trend which is of concern to all parents. You may have read of ‘Bodyshaming’ which has been quite prevalent in the news for some time now. Body-shaming (criticizing yourself or others because of some aspect of physical appearance) can lead to a vicious cycle of judgment and criticism.  But when such videos or photos ridiculing an individual or a group for physical features, dress sense or clumsy moves are posted online, along with the laughs they also invite abuse and humiliating comments.

This has particularly taken off on social media with kids from a very young age joining in. Certainly this has manifested into a global concern, prompting popular Indian and international celebs to speak out against it in recent times.

Let’s get it straight, bodyshaming is NOT OK. It is a type of cyberbullying.

It reminds me of the ancient practice of stone throwing at a supposed convict. The bodyshaming victim is made to feel ashamed of self, as if he/she has committed a criminal offence.

What you can do as a parent to stop bodyshaming:-

  • Refrain from ridiculing people for their looks. Children are like flour, they can pick up habits they are exposed to, just like whatever shape the flour can take up when it’s kneaded. Kids can easily pick it up such behavior of bodyshaming themselves or others from friends or family and most times see nothing wrong in replicating that behaviour online
  • Guide your child on what to click and post online. Remind them that there may be consequences & online records can affect their future
  • Ask them to not tag people in their posts without permission and if absolutely needed then to share privately. Respecting privacy of others is an essential virtue
  • Make sure to monitor your child’s online activities. Children, encouraged by peer reactions, could participate in mass bullying without even realizing the harm it can cause the one being cyberbullied. Do keep a lookout for signs that indicating kids are picking up bad online habits
  • It’s important that the kids understand that their life is not dependent on their social media presence. Hence approvals or criticism received on the social platforms eventually mean little.
  • Nurture good habits in your kids like you would nurture your own garden to take out unnecessary weed. Spend time with your children and their friends to get a sense of their beliefs and if they are participating in any ill advised habits. Encourage your child to support a bodyshamed victim instead of joining in. Make them understand the rampant effects it can have on one’s mind
  • Be a part of your child’s social media world so that you know if he/she is ever targeted. At the same time give him/her the required privacy
  • Install and activate a security software that offers parental controls and spend time understanding and activating this feature

Remotely monitoring the activity of kids when they are online is a helpful activity. This makes parents aware if strangers try to connect with kids or if they even exchange inappropriate language or try accessing blocked sites. Do give it a try to understand your child’s online habits to ensure safety.

And remember our security mantra- STOP. THINK. SHARE.

Life is beautiful so say NO to bodyshaming!!