Many parents are talking about how difficult it has become to manage children in this digital age, especially with multiple lockdowns, during this Covid period. With online teaching replacing the traditional way of class room teaching, there is a rampant use of screen media. Even younger children could not escape this exposure to screen media (delivered through a screen; smart phones, laptops, I pad, TV etc.)

There are already guidelines on monitoring screen time. According to the WHO guideline, infants (less than 1 year of age): screen time is not recommended. Children between 1-5 years of age should not be exposed to more than one hour per day. The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended no more than two hours/day of screen time for children and teenagers.

Parents can engage children safely and responsibly while using screen media. One simple and easy way is  through Parental mediation. Parental mediation is how parents manage and talk to children about media use. Parental mediation can buffer against the negative effects of media. Parents are recommended to educate the children on the positive and negative impacts of screen media lives.

Following are some ways for parental mediation:

a) Social co-viewing, is having a parent present with a child while watching screen media

b) Restrictive mediation, is setting limits, setting limits on time and content of screen media use.

c)   Active medication, is where the parent is present and the parent also explains the content that they are seeing together.

In addition to the above, it is important for parents to engage in open conversation with their children; let your child know the importance of talking openly about uncomfortable or negative experiences while using the screen devices.

Having frequent chats with your child, teaching them the values of real life interactions: your children need to know that being socially active will make them live healthier and longer. Children should understand that digital technology can’t substitute face to face social engagement.

There are a number of researches on the use of screen media and its implications on family interactions, parent-child interactions and on family relationships. Research has shown that many parents spend long hours using screen media and children feel unimportant when their parents get distracted by the phone.

These children usually show more disruptive behavior potentially to get their parents attention and parents are more likely to respond with anger and frustration when they are on or preoccupied with their phones.

There is also enough evidence on the negative impact on a child’s physical development, social-emotional development and academic achievement with unlimited and uncontrolled use of screen media. Some common associated problems are; obesity, sleep problems, chronic back and neck problems, mental disorders (Anxiety and Depression), internet addiction, etc.

Parents have a bigger role to play in this digital age to protect their children from above complications and to make them productive citizens.

Contributed by

Dr Ugyen Dema