Ever burning question of Parents…….. How do I engage my children after School?
This has been the topic of discussion in most of the parents forum. Parent’s these days are too concerned on this. We have to first understand that engaging children is not only about enrolling them for different classes but spending quality time with them.
Parents feel that children after school while away their time by watching television or getting glued to the mobile phone screen. They also feel that the screen content is also behaviourally affecting their children. It has been a major concern across the globe. There are two aspects to it, 1. Screen time 2. Screen content.
Research says that too much of screen time and inappropriate screen content actually hampers the development of the children both physiologically and psychologically. What is the ideal screen time? American Academy of Paediatrics says that one hour of screen time a day for young children is ideal.
a. Over weight: The content and the design makes the children glued to the screen and this drastically reduces the physical play and increases eating during screen time thus leading to children becoming over weight.
b. Vision: Have you noticed more kids wearing spectacles at a very young age and most of it is attributed to the increased screen time. The blue light that is emitted from the digital screens cause dryness, fatigue and thus eye strain. It can also cause retinal damage. According to a recent NEI funded study, children’s eyes absorb more blue light than adults. (Source:http://www.preventblindness.org; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21600300?report=abstract)
c. Posture: While involved with a Television programme or electronic media, you would have noticed children stooping over the screen or leaning on to one side. This affects their posture and causes neck pain over a period of time.
a. Sleep disturbances: Screen time just before going to bed actually disturbs the sleep in the middle of the night. Light that is emitted from the video screen at night can affect melatonin production and make the brain think that the body is not ready for sleep. Sometimes you would have noticed children dream on the screen content and wake up in the middle of the night. It is ideal to switch off the screens atleast an hour before going to bed.
b. Imaginative and Thinking skills: Too much of screen time kills the imaginative skills of the child because all the plot of the story or the game is readily available for the child. The need not use their thinking skills to identify what happens next. Instead if it’s a story telling or reading session, the child’s imaginative and thinking skills can be enhanced by asking them to complete the story or asking them to change the plot or predict the future events etc.
c. Social Interaction: Screen time inhibits social interaction . You might have noticed with adults too. Even in case of a family or friends get together, might have seen people busy interacting through social media or emails, not realising you have people around to interact.
d. Behavioural Problems: You might have noticed how the digital life has had an influence on our behaviour (adults behaviour). Right from deciding on the things we need to buy or opinions that we make of others are influenced by the digital media. If it can influence adult behaviour, definitely can influence the behaviour of children more. If a child is involved in lot of action games or watch violent movies, can notice child becoming aggressive or non-temperamental for many issues. Brain grows faster during 5 to 12 years of age and exposure to these inappropriate digital content can shape their character and behaviour.
Testing has found that using too much internet can cause depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), impulsive disorder, problems with mental functioning, paranoia, and loneliness.(Source: Anxiety and Depression Association of America)
HOW TO ENGAGE CHILDREN BETTER?
Engaging children means designing appropriate engagements and spending quality time with them. We must have heard people saying that they spend time on weekends or evenings with the children. There is a lot of difference between spending time and spending quality time.
- You can enrol children for activities like arts, dance, music, sports etc…, take time to drop and pick them up from those activities once in a while and also spend time talking about it during weekends and evenings. Never ask them to perform what they have learnt in front of you, your friends and relatives because it is not about assessing or showing others what your child has learnt. Instead sit and have a discussion about what they have learnt, whether he/she likes it, what interests him/her etc…
- Have family rules for gadget and TV time, most importantly you have to stick on to it first. To avoid boredom children can be engaged in physical play, stitching, knitting, cooking or gardening.
- Encourage them to finish all his/her engagements or activities atleast two hours before going to bed. Teach them some basic yoga postures or meditation which they can do for 5 to 10 minutes. Make sure its done 30 minutes before dinner. You can also engage them in cooking or some art work before bed. Take them relax to bed and not involved with activities right to the bed time. Make sure that child is taken to bed relax and not exhausted and tired. Read a bedtime story or can provide the child with appropriate story book to read in the bed, 30 minutes before sleep time. This way they will have a restful sleep and will be fresh the next day.
4. Take them out to different places and just make them observe the happenings (Railway stations, post office, malls, shops, factories, banks etc). You can also support them to interact with the employees there and make them feel independent and understand the process.