Love At First Write

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No Escape, Digital is Future!

24th Aug 2023

Year 2019, my son turned 4. He used to listen to rhymes and poems in 3 languages on YouTube. But I could sense the curiosity shifting from audio to visual content, which I agree is tempting and appealing. For us adults, mindless scrolling of video content is not possible, how do control our kids? The first weekend plan that youth thinks of today is "Binge-watching"! Being aware of its consequences, there came a time when I totally took him off-screen and tried to do engaging activities with him. DIY, art forms, role-play, worksheets, all sorts of research I used to do when he used to sleep, make a proper schedule of weekly activities, and execute them. He also used to enjoy it. This went on for a couple of months. However, when there were occasions for socializing, he used to be quiet. Because he did not know what was happening in the digital world. The conversation kids of his age do is around cartoons and games which he did not know anything about. The otherwise playful and chatterbox lad becoming silent was an alarm for me. Hard to believe, as I could find it, there is no escape from screens, they are the future.

But how to pick and choose age-appropriate content from the ocean where everything is easily accessible? Was a major task!

The first thing I taught him was to type and search instead of mindless scrolling, which wasn't difficult at all as the kids of this generation are pretty much tech-savvy.

The second habit I have ensured to be followed is asking what he wants to search before he types and searches. Doing that has benefitted both of us. For some topics that I feel may have been explained in a different context, I barge in and take charge to explain to him the same in his age-appropriate version. In that case, no device is involved.
The third habit is time limitation. Many times he is willing to do his simple school projects creatively and uniquely, and he seeks help on the internet. The moment he filters and decides on one particular method/way/model, we download the image/video, and the internet is turned off immediately. Once it is available on the device, no more internet access multiple times. The games he plays on the phone for 20 minutes a day are approved by me and majorly depend on which sport has a league going on. It is cricket, football, or some mind game like sudoku or word puzzle.

Very rarely he is allowed to use gadgets all by himself and at a stretch of more than 20 minutes. He has been cooperative because he knows one day he exceeds his time limit, his next-day access will be canceled. In a way, algorithms have also been useful. The new content to be explored is dependent on the content searched previously. So our Google, YouTube, and Pinterest feed usually shows art and craft/DIY projects, easy drawings, and sketches. If there is any explicit content that I need to refer to for the research of my blogs or writing, I make sure I clear my search history so that similar topics do not flash up when he is looking for something.

Also, the process of bringing down his screen time from 4-5 hours a day to 20 minutes a day was not easy. Keeping him engaged in the real world more than letting the charm of virtual dominate played a key role. I got the set of books of all the cartoons he used to watch on TV, which helped me inculcate reading in him and also kept the screen at bay. Stocking games and board games and ensuring I played them with him was another thing I did. I tried to foster more conversations, which in turn has helped me keep a check on his mental health, moods, and fears and which gave him the confidence to talk to me on any topic without any hesitation. In the times we are living in, this kind of exchange is a blessing, before things go out of hand or any mishap/blunder happens!

Happinetz is a safe internet for kids box that connects to your home router wired or wirelessly. Once connected, it creates a separate WiFi which filters out age-inappropriate internet and helps you set screen time schedules for devices connected to this WiFi. Happinetz continuously monitors more than 110 million websites and apps and is preconfigured to block more than 22 million adult and unsecured websites.

This post is a part of Happinetz - Safe Internet For Kids

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