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The Youtube Dilemma – Screen Time for Toddlers: Yay or Nay?


April 30, 2018 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ Diary of a Baby


The Youtube Dilemma - Screen Time for Toddlers: Yay or Nay? - Baby & Beyond

This post is part of a series of posts I am writing titled Diary of a Baby chronicling the candid confessions of a baby from 0 to 2 years old.

You can read the previous post in the series here: The XX / XY Factor – Breaking Gender Stereotypes

You can find the entire series here: Diary of a Baby


Age: 23 months old

 

Dear Diary,

 

I have occasionally mentioned to you about a device known as a phone. I use it to speak to people who are far away, like my cousins, my grandparents and Papa when he is at the office. But I’ve recently realized that the humble phone is actually smarter. Much smarter. As usual the adults have been having all the fun and keeping it away from me.

 

I had often wondered why Mamma follows me around with the phone all day. Every time I do something new – a new toy, a new T-shirt, first crawl, step, first, first bite of food, even first dump in the toilet – there she is with the phone. I used to wonder why she needs to call me when I’m right in front of her, but no. She wasn’t trying to call me. She was taking a ‘photo’ or a ‘video’ and sharing it with the whole world! Even people in remote places like Rwanda and Venezuela. This is so mind-blowing, I am just going to ignore the gross violation of my privacy going on here. (You are probably amazed that I even know about these remote places in the first place – I’ll get to that in a minute.)

 

The Youtube Dilemma - Screen Time for Toddlers: Yay or Nay? - Baby & Beyond

The Youtube Dilemma – Screen Time for Toddlers: Yay or Nay? – Baby & Beyond

 

Here are just a few of the seriously awesome things I can do with a smartphone:

  • Take hundreds of candid close-ups of my nose
  • Watch 15 different versions of Wheels on the Bus at a go
  • Get toilet trained (seriously..Mamma has me playing a toilet training game on the phone in the hopes that it will actually work)
  • Upload some of Mamma’s embarrassing photos to Facebook
  • Send “$&#(*fsdr4w(*&&” to all her Whatsapp groups
  • ‘Accidentally’ dial her boss when she’s having a heated discussion with Papa
  • Watch a whole zoo come to life in my living room thanks to something called augmented reality
  • Learn about all the different countries in the world (ergo Rwanda and Venezuela)
  • Hide it in the trunk of my scooter and then watch the adults go crazy looking for it
  • Make my works of art come to life (again augmented reality)
  • Make myself look like a dog or bunny 
  • Have a heart-to-heart with Siri (she just gets me like no one else does)
  • Watch mesmerizing videos of toys falling into ball pools and changing colours
  • Actually express my emotions. You know how toddlers can go from 🙁 to 😮 to 😛 to >:( to 😀 in no time? How else would I explain this without emoticons??
  • Click pictures of every meal before I eat it. This is a bizarre thing that adults seem to do. I don’t get it but hey… I want to play along too!

 

So if you are wondering wondering why I haven’t written to you in a long time. Your anger is justified. I guess I have been spending more and more time away from you as I am spending more time with my new-found fascination – the screen! Yes a screen can be so mesmerizing, captivating and almost addictive that it would be easy to forget that there is a real world around me!


Meet Gen Alpha. They learn to swipe before they learn to hold  pen. They learn to pinch zoom before they learn to use a spoon. They learn to ‘skip ad’ before they even know what an ad is. So much so that on the off chance Baby N manages to get hold of my laptop, he tries to swipe and tap on the screen. The keyboard and mouse are already alien beings to him.

 

This is the first generation that will grow up not knowing a world without smartphones, social media, augmented reality, on-demand entertainment. Parenting this generation is a whole new ballgame and one that there is no precedent for. There is a lot of conflicting advice out there on how to handle screen time but it is all based on predictions rather that hard core evidence, because there is none.

 

In my opinion, not giving screen time for toddlers is not even a viable possibility anymore. Rather it is a question of quality and quantity – what are they using the screen for and how long are they using it for. Screen time for toddlers can actually be used to aid their development, provided it is monitored for content and duration.

 

I managed to keep my son screen-free for 18 months (my target was 2 years but honestly I don’t feel guilty about not reaching it). Being a blogger, I do most of my work on the phone. More so being a mom blogger, I often have to take photos of Baby N, the activities I do with him, the places we go. It was unrealistic to expect that seeing me on the phone all the time, he will not ask for it too, knowing how toddlers like to emulate adults in every way. Further living in a joint family, it was impossible that no one would ever show him a screen. 

 

We have all heard of the harmful effects of prolonged screen-time and radiation on vision, hearing, attention span and brain development. I am not going to get into it. Instead I am going to talk about some of the measures we implement to regulate screen time (no I am not using the word limit or restrict, but ‘regulate’, because as I said it is about regulating the quality of content and the quantity of screen time). 

 

Regulating Screen Time for Toddlers:

  • Not more than 15-20 mins screen time at a stretch, 3-4 times a day. Video calls to grandparents and family are always ok and excluded from this time limit
  • Rhymes are fine. Those really annoying videos of toys falling into ball pools are fine. I don’t permit any other video content on Youtube as of now
  • I have an app from The Music Class that plays only audio with a blank screen. Its really win-win because Baby N thinks he’s getting to use the phone but its not really screen time. I switch off the phone’s signal so I don’t mind even if he wants to hold the phone while his songs are playing
  • In fact unless he is on a call or Youtube, I keep the phone’s signal off while it is in his hands. This limits radiation and accidental dialing or sending of embarrassing photos or gibberish
  • He loves looking at his own photos and videos. I store them in a separate folder so he doesn’t accidentally come across media he should not be looking at (some of the Whatsapp forwards can be really disturbing)
  • When he started showing more interest in more interactive content rather than just videos, I downloaded edutainment apps through which he learns about animals, countries, vehicles, numbers, toilet training (yes it’s true). These apps have engaging content in the form of puzzles, flash cards, colouring pages that encourage learning too. His favourite are the augmented reality apps that make animals come to life right in front of him.
  • I avoid using the phone as a distraction when he is in the midst of a tantrum. This would make him believe that anytime he wants the phone, he just need to pretend to cry or have a tantrum
  • Lead by example – no phone at the dining table, no screen while eating
  • Bedtime is booktime. No screentime right before going to bed because it overstimulates the child, delays sleep and disrupts sleep patterns
I am participating in the April A to Z blogging challenge

I am participating in the April A to Z blogging challenge

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