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Healthier Alternatives to Screen Time

Healthier Alternatives to Screen Time

Have you ever out of frustration gave your 1 year old your phone or let them sit near computer watching a YouTube video? I myself am guilty of this. Young ones are a handful and demand continuous attention. Sometimes, us parents can be tired and on our last energy reserves where we resort to giving them digital devices for our sanity. Yes, on one hand we know that this is dangerous for young kids and on other hand we want to stay sane. WHO (World Health Organization) advices no sedentary screen time for a baby below 2 years and only up to one hour of screen time for 2 to 4 years old, the lesser the better. Sedentary viewing can also be referred to as passive viewing where baby is sitting in front of a screen and watching which can be a tv, computer or a tablet. The purpose of this article is not to guilt any mom or dad because yes, parenting is tough and at times we all make choices we aren’t very proud of. What I want to achieve is that hopefully by sharing some positive alternatives, parents who are in search of them can tweak and apply for their children according to their own circumstances.

WHO (World Health Organization) advices no sedentary screen time for a baby below 2 years and only up to one hour of screen time for 2 to 4 years old, the lesser the better.

These are my own experiences which I have learnt on my journey of motherhood. Yes, I tried to keep my baby away from screen as much as I could apart from videocalls with family which was kind of doable but 1 year into motherhood, I found myself using laptop and YouTube as a means of distraction to make her eat for example. I have somewhat recovered from that phase too. My worry was her brain development, learning and eyesight due to which I try my best to keep my baby out of the clutches of digital world. Me and my husband both have sacrificed various things in our ongoing battle against screen time for our baby.

1. Limit Your Own Screen Time When the Baby is Around

Too much screens are not good for adults either and while we need them for work and necessities, we might end up using them a bit too much for leisure. For the sake of our children, we can control our not needed screen time.  

I would like to share my own example. Husband and I used to watch Netflix together, one of our collective leisure time pass. When the baby was small and used to sleep a lot, we could continue this activity of ours. Once the baby started sitting and getting more attentive, we banned Netflix for ourselves whenever the baby is around. In this way, one of the ways baby could get screen time was removed from the equation. Now, we squeeze in Netflix time for ourselves only when the baby is asleep. Hehe.

2. Be Your Baby’s Playmate

Play boost brain development and cognitive skills along with improving parent-child bond. As the common saying goes said, ‘You can never spend too much time with your children’. Yes, this means you should play with your baby and this will require spending less time scrolling on your phone. Instead you can invent silly, stupid games which might make no sense to adults but will be a great source of fun, learning and development for the child.

3. Buy Engaging Toys

Toys are good for sensory play and learning. Children stay more distracted with toys that keep them engaged for example by making them do some actions like opening and closing a lid, pushing buttons to make sounds and so on. These kinds of toys would provide a better alternate activity specially as a child gets more and more responsive to sounds and actions.

4. Introduce Books

But babies can’t read? Who says they can. It is just about familiarizing them with the concept of books along with providing visual stimulation. For younger babies, you can find colourful books with thick pages, less text, more drawing. With time they will learn the purpose of books and will develop love for them as well. A study show that quantity and quality of book reading in children as young as 6 months predicted early literacy skills like reading, writing and sound awareness.

5. Use Audio/Sing to Your Baby

You can play Quranic recitation, positive poems or nasheeds on audio. Or you can sing yourself too. I recently experienced this. Whenever my baby is a bit cranky, whether we are in the car or at home, I start singing her poems and she calms down. This means doing effort myself, i.e. making my throat tired (lol) but this has really helped me lessen her screen time. Alhamdulillah. You can also find beneficial poems and Islamic nasheeds as well, which will help your baby learn good things apart from listening to rhythms and melody.

6. Spend Time Outside

If you are tired of playing with the baby yourself, go out for a walk. The baby can sit in the stroller and observe the surroundings distracted with all the sounds and the activities while you make progress for your number of steps per day goal. It is a win-win. 😀 You can plan this with your friends and catch up on socializing too, which otherwise mothers have little to no time for.

7. Don’t Worry about the Mess

Yes, spending more time with your baby, keeping them away from screens will mean compromising on the mess in the house. The baby will crawl here and there, take things out of drawers, basically make a mess wherever the little one can reach. So, yeah, you will have to allow that to happen (obviously in a safe way) which will require contribution from both parents. If for example, the father expects the house to be spick and span on his return from work or the mother has OCD craze for keeping everything a 100% neat and clean, this won’t be possible. Allowing the baby to be engaged in other things will require relaxation on cleanliness. There are ways however to minimize this like buying a baby fence, alternating between the playpen and the floor etc.

References:

  1. Roberts, M. (2019 April 24). No sedentary screen time for babies, WHO says. BBC News. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/health-48021224
  2. Ginsburg, K. (Jan 2007). The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds. Official Journal of American Academy of Paediatricians. Retrieved from https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/119/1/182
  3. Denworth, L. (2017 May 5). The Magic of Reading Aloud to Babies. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/brain-waves/201705/the-magic-reading-aloud-babies

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