When I was growing up in the 80s, TVs were as rare as Chapatis. Before we had one in our house, we could only watch it at our neighbours whom we considered rich. That was when richness was defined by how many electronic gadgets you had in your home, like a fridge, Sound System, TV and a gas cooker.
A lot has changed since then. Very few households especially in urban areas remain without a TV set even if its the Great Wall one. TV rules were not necessary if your chances of watching a telly were only once a week on weekends at a neighbours or friends house.
Electronic gadgets are increasingly becoming a cause for concern for many parents. Previously, a parent only needed to deal with how much time their kid(s) spent watching telly and even that is becoming increasingly hard. Now, there are too many other gadgets fighting for our children’s attention; Play Station, smart phones, Tablets, Laptops, Desktop PC and handheld Games Consoles.
All these gadgets are competing for the child’s attention despite the homework exercises they have to work on after school and on weekends.
A child between the ages of 3-18 has no capability of freely deciding to set their own rules on what time they should spend on gadgets and on homework or going outside to play. Heck, even many adults still struggle with that self discipline. I know a friend who is obsessed with the PS so much that all his free time is occupied playing, he even had to buy his wife another TV for her Esmeraldas.
It is therefore important that we as parents set rules when it comes to Electronic entertainment. I know that its not easy especially when most of us are working, some, with eve
ning classes even on weekends thus we feel that the least we could do is allow our kids to reign free. This is mostly due to our own guilt of not being there for them when we know we ought to, thus we try to make it up by buying them whatever they want and allow them to be entertained.
It is necessary to set what I would define as either TV or Gadget rules depending on how many entertainment electronics you have in your household. I will put this under responsible parenting as it is as important as deciding whether to keep or fire a Househelp who tells your kids that they are stupid.
What I have seen work for me is having a ‘No TV after 7pm on weekdays’ policy. It is easier if you get home before 7pm to enforce it although it can be tricky if your Nanny loves watching the many Soaps Operas that come after the 7pm news. By ensuring that there is no TV being watched after 7pm on weekdays, you will have an easier time dealing with homework or even bonding with your kids. Some of the activities they can engage in are;-
– Board Games
You may substitute the TV with the Sound system by playing kids songs like the Lion King soundtrack , Disney’s audio tracks or even Putumayo Play ground if you are into such.
Many developing countries, Kenya included, lack an electronic policy that stipulates guidelines for electronic use by children. However, in developed countries, these policy exists and are well enforced. An example is the recent ban of electronics attending camps.
However, as Kenya’s internet usage grows, and as accessibility to affordable electronics such as smartphones and tablets grow, there is a need for parents to know that they could be exposing their children to a lot of harm in the name of entertainment.
Studies have shown that excessive media use can lead to attention problems, school difficulties, sleep and eating disorders, and obesity. In addition, the Internet and cell phones can provide platforms for illicit and risky behaviours.
The American Academy of Paediatrics , AAP recommends that parents establish “screen-free” zones at home by making sure there are no televisions, computers or video games in children’s bedrooms, and by turning off the TV during dinner.
Children and teens should engage with entertainment media for no more than one or two hours per day, and that should be high-quality content. It is important for kids to spend time on outdoor play, reading, hobbies, and using their imaginations in free play.
Television and other entertainment media should be avoided for infants and children under age 2. A child’s brain develops rapidly during these first years, and young children learn best by interacting with people, not screens.
Check out 10 Tips for Setting Limits on Electronics and Screen Time for Kids