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In Conversation With Mansi Zaveri

Mansi Zaveri is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Kidsstoppress.com

Q. What are some of the potential risks associated with excessive screen time for children? How can parents mitigate these risks?

In my conversations with doctors and educators, and from research reports, it is clear that excess screen time over a long period of time causes addiction in children, leading to behavioural issues and health problems like obesity, irregular sleep and lots more. But as parents, it is important we don’t escalate the issues and help our children handle it at the earliest. I have always said this- don’t let TV be your child’s babysitter. And co-consume content on screens with your children as much as possible. By defining the rules as a family a lot of disagreements and feud around screen time can be prevented.

Q. How much screen time is considered healthy for children, and how does this vary by age, and in today's digitally-fueled times how can parents limit their kids' tech usage?

As a parent of 2, I don’t believe in limiting my child’s tech usage and screen time. In my house, there are no rules specific to screen time. I believe in educating my daughters about the benefits of screens and the perils when consumed more than desired. That, to me, has helped them understand when they are consuming more and cut down appropriately. That, in my opinion, is more important than limiting their tech usage, especially when we are raising them in a world where digital options are endless.

Q. What are some resources or tools that parents can use to help regulate their screen time and promote healthy habits?

Like I mentioned earlier, it is essential that we use the right features and options in the screens I children use, to help them use it correctly. For instance:

● Using the parental control options in apps you co-consume, from Netflix to educational apps is important to monitor your child’s activity.

● When using Instagram, make sure you check out the Parental Supervision Tools that were recently launched to help supervise your teen’s Instagram consumption

● Children don’t like it when we sound nagging. Be smart and install applications that come with site blockers and timers, so it automatically becomes inaccessible when kids spend too much time on the internet.

In addition to tech options cited above, ensure you have an open and healthy conversation with your child about their agreed screen time. Set rules in place instead of incessant reminders. For example, “No homework, no TV”. This way it helps establish the cause-effect relationship, and they are accountable for their screen time.

Q. How can we make their screen time more meaningful?

Like I stated earlier, ensure TV isn’t just a babysitter in your house. Let your children view televisions and iPads as means to bond with you and co-consume with you. When you come across a new educational app for your kids, try it out together to have some fun bonding with your kids. That way they see it as something useful and fun and not boring like “homework”.

Slotmovie nights with your kids in your weekly schedule. In my case, we slot Friday nights to watch some of the best movies and documentaries together as a family.

Q. Some online safety tips for kids / teens?

Over 85% of Indian kids have reported being cyberbullied and it is about time we paid closer heed to the perils of screen exposure. Thankfully, there are enough tools and options floating around that we need to be aware of, as parents, to help kids stay safe online. For eg:

● Parental Supervision Tools on social media platforms like Instagram gives you an insight into their world of social media consumption.

● Safe Search Mode on their browsers that offers encrypted, secured and relevant search results

● Installing the right antivirus software application on your child’s laptop helps protect from viruses, and malware with HTTPS scanning and firewalls installed.

● Right from search engines to YouTube, to OTT platforms, ensure you choose the child profile and child modes to help protect the content they are exposed to.

Q. Screen time limits aren't just for kids. Why do adults need them too? - Any tips on handling screen time battles with kids?

Absolutely! It is hypocrisy at its peak! We spend all day on phones and laptops and iPads but expect our children to turn it off at the end of the 30-minute or 60-minute mark. It’s like snacking on a delicious chocolate bar in front of the kids, while claiming it harms their teeth!

Here is how I realigned my screen time, to not be a hypocrite while also teaching my children that there’s life beyond screens.

1. Define boundaries and stick to them: Children Like boundaries. If you insist on no phones at the dinner table and while studying, help your kids by sticking to the rules. They will be the first ones to remind you of the rules.

2. Don’t make it too desirable: It’s like going on a diet where sugar is all you are thinking of. Don’t give it the importance it doesn’t deserve.

3. Give Alternatives: Instead of constantly repeating get off the screens, try saying “can you play Lego?” or “paint something instead” or “Do you want to call a friend over?” Or “would you like to do English Spellings or Math Tables?” Giving them a choice is empowering them and makes them aware of their choices.

4. Not all screen time is bad: Pick your battles with your kids. If you are going to put a blanket ban on all screen time, they are going to rebel. I co-consume fun apps, and learning aides, watch science videos and experiments together

5. Family Screen Time and Bonding: We watch TV shows and sports matches with our kids, so they know that they're not in danger of being banned. We watch a show together every evening at 7:30 and a movie every Saturday afternoon. It’s now a family ritual and everyone finishes all their tasks before the ritual.

Remember, children resort to excess screen time for attention when they don’t get it from us. Focus on quality bonding time with the kids. And give them your 100% attention when on it. These screen time woes will dissipate soon!

Q. How can we help kids reduce anxiety? Is screen time & gaming is affecting a child’s mental health and behaviour?

From my conversations with doctors and other experts, I have found out that excess screen time can cause dependency as well as anxiety issues even in tweens and teens. As a parent, this is concerning and requires us to take actions that help children find their right balance between the digital and real world.

● Instead of a total ban on gaming and other digital activity, help them regulate their screen time and sandwich it between no-screen tasks. For eg: they can add some physical activity before or after screen time to help mitigate the effects of excess screen time.

● They could also start on some relaxation activities that help them wind down in the late evenings and prepare them for better sleep.

● Establishing a routine and getting into habits will help children look beyond the realms of the digital world.

● Don’t hesitate to seek professional help if required. A topic that continues to be a taboo in our society, it is up to us as parents to understand the world our children live in and how variedly different it is from the one we grew up in. Keeping your child’s best interests in mind, it is imperative we seek out the right help when needed. Be it from medical health experts, or educators or school counsellors.

Q. Our kids are growing up in a constantly connected world. While understanding children’s risks and opportunities please share tips for parents in this digital age

In addition to the points stated above like having an open communication channel with your kids, keeping them safe through tools and apps and helping to distract them with other physical and non-screen activities, it is important for parents to step up and improve their knowledge on the kind of digital exposure our kids receive. A healthy understanding of their digital world helps us explain to them how to use it the right way and when it goes beyond the optimum level. Stay involved in their digital lives by participating in activities together, discussing their online experiences, and showing genuine interest in their online interests.

And be firm on the rules you set as a family. Both for the kids and for you. Like I said, asking your child to stop using the phone while you are glued to it 24*7, isn’t the right behaviour you would want to model.


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Kids Screen Time teens

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