It’s tricky parenting in the digital age. In addition to all your basic child-rearing challenges, you also need to strike a fine balance when it comes to technology and your kid.
Some parents try to limit screen time as much as possible, including, famously, actress Joanne Peh when she had her first child. But as even she discovered, there comes a time when you can no longer ban devices.
Instead of seeing them as all bad, screen time and exposure to digital content can actually help your toddler and preschooler learn. Besides, you don’t want them to be left behind later on, as digital skills are now in demand in the workplace.
The problem is, what kind of content and how to expose your child so she will pick up useful skills, without getting device-withdrawal symptoms when you take away her screen time.
We ask Media Literacy Council member and mum of two, Prof Lim Sun Sun, to address the top concerns facing every Singapore parents.
What’s wrong with entertaining my kids with a smartphone? Giving them screen time lets me recharge, as well.
The digital age brings about many concerns for parents whose children are just being exposed to their first digital devices. A study on how technology was impacting family relationships found that
- Technology is becoming a kind of “co-parent”.
- Too much screen time is impeding childhood development and displaces other activities such as outdoor play and interpersonal interaction.
- Parents’ obsession with their devices is harming communication with their children.
However, in addition to the risks, remember that there are opportunities to learn and grow in the online world. It is especially rich with content for learning, socialising and entertainment.
That is why as your kids learn to access, use and create such content, it is important that they do so safely and responsibly. After all, kids learn best by interacting with their parents or family members.
To prevent your children from being dependent on the digital device as a stimulant, you must encourage them to cultivate other hobbies and interests, use technology as a supplement or aid to help cultivate aspirations, interests and learning.
If technology is to be used for learning, you should use the media together with your kids, especially when they are young, to maximise any learning opportunities that may arise from the programmes.
My kids throw tantrums whenever I don’t hand them a tablet to play with. How do I wean them off the device?
Start implementing easy-to-follow rules such as tech-free zones and tech-free family bonding time. This will be more effective if your whole family can also participate in the exercise to set a good example for the children.
As discussed briefly earlier, you can make use of the tech-free family bonding time to implement more outdoor activities such as exercise, playing board games or sports. Children with a more balanced lifestyle will minimise potential addictions in the future.
There are also resources on the Media Literacy Council’s website 1click.sg that can help guide you in educating your kids on digital media use, such as the Digital Parenting with Preschoolers guide and the Clique Click guide. The latter shares everyday tips that help your family navigate the online world in a safe and responsible manner.
What is the right age to give my kid a smartphone?
My two children were only given smartphones when they started secondary school. After 9pm, they are not to use their phones so that they can wind down for the night. I permitted them to experiment with social media but they used my devices to do so. They also have to ‘friend’ me so that I can give them feedback on what they are posting.
Our expert, Lim Sun Sun, is also the professor of Communication and Technology and head of Humanities, Arts & Social Sciences at the Singapore University of Technology and Design.
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