My son is 2 years 4 months and has zero interest in screen – no matter what kind. When people get to know this, their response is often raised eyebrows and shocked surprise. There are also some light-hearted comments on how I am punishing my child by depriving him of screen time.
Well, it is a personal choice. Parenting is personal. I try not to judge parents who allow too much screen time, having said that it’s not something I appreciate a whole lot either. I am not perfect, neither do I expect others to be. Sharing with you all today my views and how I have been raising my son as a screen-free child.
Welcome to my world. I am a work from home mom which makes screens an inevitable part of my daily routine. Even then, I have managed to keep my son away from all screens, be it TV, laptop, mobiles or tablets. How?
It helps to start off on the right track. An infant has no demands except for milk and sleep and a lot of cuddles. There is absolutely zero requirement of any other thing. Studies indicate that introducing screen to them at such a delicate age can have lasting negative effects on their still-developing brain.
- We made it a rule to have no screens around Rey when he was an infant. Phones were kept out of sight and he was hardly ever in a room with the TV on. And when he was, his line of vision did not capture the screen.
Set an example.
Children see, children do. They will never ask you for something they don’t see you and anyone else doing. You cannot be glued to the screen and expect your child to not follow suit. Avoid screens in front of the child. This one is a little difficult for those parents and families whose favourite time pass is watching TV or playing games on the mobile or being obsessed with social media.
- It helps that neither my husband nor I am a fan of TV. We do follow series, however, we catch up on them only after our son has settled for the night. My husband watches football matches but that’s only once in a while. As for the mobile, it is strictly off-limits for our son. His father is not a smartphone fan and I try limiting my usage when he is around. I do click a lot of his photos and make videos but switch off the screen the minute I am done. My son thinks of the phone as a camera as I haven’t let him look at the screen beyond selfies and photos. I openly discourage anyone from showing him their phone as well. Well, yeah – I am only watching out for my son. Sue me! 😉
Phones are not a substitute.
Parenthood can be overwhelming. Yes. It can drive you nuts. Agreed. It may even make you question your sanity. Has happened to me too. But all it takes is those weak moments to give in and start the circle. Ask someone to step in if you can. Keep extra toys handy. Keep activities ready. Head out for a walk with the baby. Plan your day. Leave room for boredom
- For the last two years, I have been solo parenting to an only child, Monday to Friday from morning to night. I know how it feels to want a break. But it’s doable.
It’s never too soon to start forming good habits. A general rule in our house is “No phone, No TV” for children.
- By the time my son was 18 months old, he would not l̥ook at the TV or pick up a mobile
Hold your ground
Children quickly learn and realize what they can get from where. If you give in too easily, they will only come on stronger next time. Hold your ground.
- Although Rey hasn’t shown any interest in screens, if anytime something catches his eye and I see him glancing at a phone, I am quick to whisk it away and not give in to his request. On those rare occasions or when on a video call – when he does look at the screen, I ensure he does not get the phone in his hands.
Now he is almost 2 and a half years old and even if TV is on in the house, he pays no attention. If there are phones lying around, they are just boxes for him, he doesn’t try to switch them on and fiddle with them.
I have, on days, switched on the TV, put on a cartoon, and recorded his reactions to whether he starts watching TV. His response instead has been to ask me to play with him and not even glance towards the screen.
I realize screen time is inevitable with so much digital influence directed towards kids – from videos to games to educational apps. I will introduce it to him slowly and gradually.
But for now, as a wise man once said: “A child should know how to hold a pencil before he learns how to operate a mobile phone”.