Aside from soaking in the festivities during the holiday season, parents may find it a challenge to engage their kids when they are home for the school break. Many parents give in to leaving their children with digital gadgets to occupy their time, so that parents do not have to constantly think up new ideas to entertain the youngsters.
While early digital media exposure can help a child get a headstart on digital literacy, there are also numerous risks of doing so. A recent study performed by KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital in conjunction with the National University of Singapore found that exposure to digital media in children less than 18 months of age are associated with increased emotional and behavioural difficulties. They purport that this occurs because digital media consumption detrimentally affects the amount and quality of sleep.
Tips for using digital media with children at home
There is no doubt that knowing how to use digital devices and online platforms is an essential skill in today’s world. Although exposing your children to digital media is a key step to helping them pick up these skills, there are still steps you should take to ensure your children are safe from the risks of digital media consumption.
Rather than using digital devices as the easy way out for giving your child self-entertainment, seek to use digital media in meaningful ways to demonstrate the usefulness of it. For example:
- Use digital media to bond with your child: Enjoy family-friendly videos or movies together, or use the device to embark on simple projects together like designing a card, or video-call a relative to send them your greetings.
- Use digital media as an educational tool: Capitalise on the resources available online to help your child find answers to their constant slew of questions, or look up educational videos of their favourite topics.
If you haven’t already been doing these, now is a good time to start! The turn of the new year is also an excellent time to establish or revise your home digital rules. These rules will help your children regulate their use of digital technology and ensure the risks of digital media use are minimised.
Tips for setting digital media consumption rules
It can be a challenge to set rules because not only do you need to remember them, you also need to enforce them for it to be effective. Above all, rules should be set with the child in mind. Having clear boundaries help children learn what is safe, so a younger child needs stricter rules, which can be gradually loosened as the child grows older. Below are some key parameters you should consider:
- Where can digital devices be used? – Experts recommend that digital devices be kept out of the bedroom. Limit their use to the living room, in the presence of their parent’s supervision.
- When should digital devices be used? – Ideally, you want to keep digital use limited to playtime or family time, and not during mealtimes or close to bedtime.
- How long should digital devices be used a day? – The daily limits for digital consumption should vary with age. A rough gauge is not more than an hour per day for children aged 2-6 years.
- What content are the children allowed to access? – To protect your children from unsavoury content, you need to restrict the sites and apps your children are allowed to use. Enforce this by supervising their use and putting in place parental control settings on the devices they use.
In setting these rules, it is also important to let your child understand why they are put in place. Talking to your children about the dangers they can encounter in digital media will help them be more likely to abide by your rules once they recognise that it is for their own good.
Other avenues for digital media education
Indeed, being a parent in this day and age means being prepared to bring your children up with digital media in a responsible manner. If your child’s school has a digital literacy programme, that can also play a part in reinforcing these digital skills. Look out for schools like the Canadian International School (CIS) which integrate technology into their learning curriculum.
The international school in Singapore also runs the K-12 Digital Citizenship Curriculum, which instils essential digital skills in students from the IB primary years programme onwards. By the end of their IB education in Singapore, students should be able to be discerning and responsible participants of the digital world.
Remember, you’re not alone in bringing up your child in this digital age. Your child’s school, fellow parents, and other educators are in for the long run to help the current and next generation grow up with digital media and technology. So, take control of your child’s digital learning journey – don’t let your rules be thrown out the window just because it is the holidays!