Do you use a mobile phone? If your answer is yes (which we’re 100% sure it is), it means that your child is a digital native. And that is the hard truth. There is no escaping technology, whether we like it or not.
‘Screen time’ is a big concern among parents but ironically the use of digital mediums among children is only increasing.
And as a team of educators, storytellers, musicians and psychologists, we’re saying that instead of focusing all your energy on trying to find ways to ban screen time (which is exhausting & never works), we need to think about how to use technology effectively.
Here are some thoughts :
1) Have a clear goal
Before we download an app or go to a YouTube channel, it would be good for us to think about why you’re doing so? What is the goal? Is it to find new ideas for bedtime stories? Is to use a video to explain the life cycle of a butterfly? Is to find a song about Diwali that your child can perform at an upcoming celebration at school? These are all meaningful and apt reasons for using technology as a medium to access content and can lead to purposeful discussions with your little ones with a clear goal. From early on, it will help your child inculcate good digital habits and use technology with a goal in mind rather than aimlessly browsing for content without any end in sight.
2) Set Limits and be consistent
The American Academy of Pediatrics has outlined clear guidelines for screen time :
Under 2 years – No screen time
2-4 years – Less than an hour / day
5-17 years – No more than 2 hours / day
3) Choose Good Quality Content
This is the MOST IMPORTANT piece of the puzzle. Just like with food, you have healthy and junk food, it’s important to know the difference between healthy and junk content. And this difference needs to be understood as early as possible because once the choice is made, it is impossible to go back.
Here’s a simple checklist –
- Just like you check the ingredients that go into making a food product it is important to read up about the background of the content creators. Do they have experience working with children or creating children’s content and what’s their motivation to do so? If the individuals involved are genuine, passionate and credible, then you know that the content would be thoughtfully done keeping a child’s interests in mind.
- A lot of children’s content today is plagued with noisy, flashy, violent, sexist undertones in the name of entertainment. From showing little girls with pink cheeks making rotis, to boys picking a fight at the drop of a hat, to unboxing videos that compel children and parents into buying things, these stereotypes can deeply affect a child’s self esteem and world view. These should be an absolute no no.
- Content that has a good balance of education and fun. They should be short and focused on specific themes and topics so that a young child can understand one thing at a time. Content that is hours long without any focus, can lead to passive consumption and addiction.
- Listen to the lyrics of the songs and the meaning of the stories. It’s important that it is age appropriate and nurtures a child’s curiosity. Singing Bollywood songs and pop songs, even though they might be catchy, can expose kids to inappropriate language and mindless passive mimicry of things that are beyond their comprehension.
- Use multiformat content such as books, animated videos, audio books, songs etc to adapt to your child’s interest and learning style.
- Content should lead to interaction i.e. the content platform itself could invite interaction from the child in the form of answering a question or figuring out a tricky puzzle or learning new words. Or it could lead to interaction outside the platform where a child applies what he/she learns in everyday life like planting a seed or knowing when to cross the road.
Content should be culturally relevant. The real world, culture, and contexts that children actually experience are the seed from which all learning stems. Knowing this simple sequence in which the mind works – from the familiar to the unfamiliar – when children feel comfortable with what they know, they will feel confident to use this as a platform to explore and understand something new. When children listen to stories and songs with characters that look like them, their parents and grandparents, eating the food that they eat, speaking the languages that they speak and celebrating festivals that they celebrate as a family, there is an almost automatic emotional connect. The feeling that somewhere out there is a person who might feel like me and look like me; makes them know that they are not alone and that they are understood and this quietly boosts their self-esteem and confidence.
If you are looking for content that meets the above requirements, don’t forget to give Kutuki a try. You can download it from the links below for Android or iOS.
Kutuki is a team of award winning educators, artists, storytellers and musicians creating fresh, original stories and songs tailor-made for Indian preschoolers. Trusted by 200,000+ educators, parents and children across India.