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    Parenting Tips

    Reasons for baby throwing tantrums when you get back from work

    Written on 25 May 2021

    Though television and other new age media such as phones and tablets, may help your toddler learn new things, there are some negative influences as well. And, despite what commercials may say, videos that are aimed at very young children do not always improve their development.

    Media today influences children's behaviour to a great extent, and the effects of screen time on children have been vastly researched. Most experts around the world discourage screen time for children under the age of two. However, in today's times it may not be practical to always follow this guideline. If you allow your toddler screen time, it's best to limit it to a maximum of 15-20 minutes at a time, and no more than one hour (total) a day.

    There are valid reasons why television watching should not be part of your child's regular daily routine. Too much screen time is known to:

    • make it hard for your child to sleep at night
    • increase your child's risk of attention problems, anxiety, and depression
    • cause strain to your child's eye and if your child is short-sighted it could worsen the condition

    Screen time can also increase your child's risk of obesity because:

    • Sitting and watching a screen is time that is not spent being physically active.
    • TV commercials and other screen advertisements can lead to unhealthy food choices. Most of the time, the foods in advertisements that are aimed at young children are high in sugar, salt, or fats.
    • Children eat more when they are watching TV, especially if they see advertisements for food.

    That said, there are some benefits that children may derive from TV and other sources as well. For example, educational programs on TV might be informative and help your child learn new things in a fun way.

    Computers or laptops may also be useful when older children do their schoolwork. However, surfing the internet for long hours or spending too much time watching videos or playing games will account for unhealthy screen time. So moderation is the key.

    Limiting screen time can ensure that your child gets a lot of time for physical activities.

    Babies and toddlers learn more quickly through interactions that happen when they explore their actual, physical world. Setting limits is especially important because babies and toddlers are awake only so many hours a day, and most should be spent exploring their "real" world with you, their caregivers, and peers

    Here are some ways to reduce screen time:

    • Remove the TV or computer from your child's bedroom or your bedroom if your child sleeps in your room. Try not to take your mobile phones and tablets into your bedroom. Establish 'screen-free' zones at home.
    • Avoid media before bedtime as it can be very stimulating, making it hard for children to calm themselves to go to sleep.
    • Don't let your child eat while watching TV or using the computer or tablet. Eating while watching TV or using a screen can mean taking in too many calories. Never use the TV as a distraction tool to feed a fussy eater.
    • Try not to leave the TV on for background noise, and turn the TV off when no one is watching. You could turn on the music player or radio instead, or choose not to have any background noise.
    • Limit background TV when your child is playing or when you and your child are in a room together. Research proves that background TV is detrimental to children's learning.
    • If it is hard not to have the TV on, try using a sleep function so it turns off automatically after a while.
    • Decide which programs to watch ahead of time. Turn off the TV when those programs are over.
    • Suggest other activities, such as family board games, puzzles, or going for a walk.
    • Keep a record of how much time is spent in front of a screen. Try to spend the same amount of time being active.
    • Be a good role model as a parent. Decrease your own screen time to two hours a day.
    • Challenge your family to go one week without watching TV or doing other screen time activities. Find things to do with your time that get you moving and burning energy.

    Limiting screen time is important, but when you do allow your child to watch TV or a tablet, ensuring he watches age-appropriate content is equally important. Here are some ways which can help you filter out what your child may be watching:

    • Check established ratings systems for shows, movies and games to avoid inappropriate content, such as violence, explicit sexual content or glorified tobacco and alcohol use. Check the age group rating (U/PG/A) before allowing your toddler to watch any movie.
    • Watch television and videos with your toddler, so you are aware of what he watches, and you can help guide his media experience.
    • Choose content very carefully. Be sure that the content reflects your child's experiences in the real world. Programs or videos that your child watches should provide a context that your child can relate to and which is organised around everyday themes.
    • See to it that your child watches programs that depict positive interactions between people and characters that serve as models for your child. For example, if your toddler watches a cartoon that always depicts the main character being lazy and less interactive with other characters, your child may try to imitate the character.
    • You could choose programs and apps with interactive components that engage your child's participation.
    • Avoid fast-paced programs, as research has shown they may temporarily impair young children's executive functioning, their ability to plan and organise information to reach a goal. For example, figuring out which blocks will work best to form a base for a tower so it won't fall down.

    As parents, try to monitor your own media diet as well.

    • Reserve time to watch adult-directed programs or videos when your toddler is not with you. Even the so called "family entertainment" movies or shows may not be suitable for your child.
    • If you are keen to watch a movie, get a relative or a friend to babysit your toddler while you catch an afternoon show or watch while he is asleep.

    It's possible that you find that all these guidelines are easier said than done. Limited space in urban cities or a large family may mean that your toddler is exposed to all kinds of movies and television shows throughout the day.

    If you live in a joint family, try to request other members in the family to watch serials, music videos and movies when your toddler is in the daycare or playschool or when he is playing outside.

    If certain shows are telecast when he is at home then they could consider recording and watching them later. Or you could watch them at a later time when they are re-telecast. If that doesn't work, try to keep your child engaged in another room with some puzzles or books while the show is on.

    It may be useful to keep the TV away from a common family area where your child plays often.

    Make sure you share these guidelines with your household help as well, especially if you're a working mum and leave your child alone in her care.

    If you live in a nuclear family and don't have enough help, it's possible that you may be tempted to use the TV sometimes to keep your toddler engaged. Maybe it's when you need to finish some chores or when you need a break after a tiring day at work.

    However, instead of using the TV as a babysitter, try finding other activities for your child. Involve your toddler in some simple tasks instead. Let him put his toys back into his toy box, or give him a piece of dough as you knead flour for chapattis. Keep a special set of blocks or a favourite toy handy for these times.

    Remember that at the end of the day, your toddler will always cherish the time he spends with you. Any activity with you is enough to keep him happy, and this will help cut down on unsupervised television time. What better way to bond with your child every day!

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