Much to my chagrin, my husband bought an iPad for my daughter on her second birthday. As if the non-stop cartoon network wasn’t enough! I was then working in a 9 to 6 job and my daughter was taken care of by her grandparents – who, if you know Indian grandparents – were raining their mushy slushy love for their grandchild by allowing her to do things ‘her’ way. My weekends were usually spent on running errands. The end result was that my 2-year-old was becoming an expert in video games and a walking encyclopedia on cartoons.
I swear I’m not exaggerating. I’ve had several moments of uneasiness listening to her impeccable knowledge on cartoon genealogy when I wouldn’t even know my great grandfather’s name. My smiles at her gaming feats would diffuse into thin air when she would throw tantrums and make a terrible racket as soon as the TV was switched off or her iPad was taken away at the behest of providing some respite to the poor electronic soul. I was worried it was affecting her behavior. I was worried it would affect her eyes. And I just didn’t have the time to think of what to do.
Although everyone was worried in the family, including my husband – who for the record, was on the screen himself all the time. I could let him off for the sole excuse that his job and commitments and some ‘me’ time were the reasons it was difficult to unwire himself. So basically, he was not qualified for the job of luring his daughter to limit the screen time.
The hot potato was passed on to me. I was thinking hard on this when by a stroke of luck, my sister made a plan to visit us with her two daughters. The three cousins got along with my kid like a house on fire! My baby girl was finally distracted and found real games to play with her gang! They left soon after and my pint-sized rubber ball was about to bounce back to her usual routine when I decided to use that disruption to my advantage. I encouraged her to make her time table and set goals – thanks to my decade long training as HR. I was not sure it would work. But it did. Children are more logical being than grown-ups. You can take my signature on this.
I set a time limit for her screen time. I encouraged her grandpa and grandma to watch cartoons with her and as soon as the time was over, to switch it off. We used to encourage her to switch it off herself by reminding her of the fact that she had set the time herself on the time table she made. (How manipulative! Bwahaha!). Initially there were some tantrums but they too subsided gradually. She was taken to parks regularly and I bought some educational activities for her which she started to enjoy. I learnt one thing in the process: when she was left to do things on her own she would cringe back to the TV screen, but if she had company to play, her interest would last longer. Things were getting under control. But the ‘elixir of life’ was yet to come and it came when we shifted to Middle East as a nuclear family.
We were putting the nest bit by bit in a new land. There was no TV for us. My daughter used to miss her screen time. I started downloading her favorite cartoons on her iPad. It was a good time to use my censorship rights and filter out the cartoons which I despised because of their language and/or behavior. I never dared to plug them off because my little dictator loved them. It was the most opportune time to eliminate them from my life. I downloaded some educational cartoon episodes of one hour duration only and saved them in a different folder. I introduced one episode a day to my daughter, handing her the tablet only after ensuring that it was on flight mode lest she should get an uninterrupted supply of cartoons or by any chance wander in the forbidden land. Putting the iPad on flight mode also saved her from unnecessary radiations. Slowly, but surely it became her habit. Now she is 5 and she is conditioned to watch cartoons on her iPad for one hour only. She has learnt that TV is for news and football matches. I changed myself too. I had to unwire myself first to get her out of overindulgence. Things are better now. Everything comes with some boon and some bane. Prudence lies in using the boon wisely. Cutting off completely and hiding in a cave is not the answer. Let’s act smart. Kindly note the ingredients for unwiring your kids carefully –
One solid Time Table
A few Activities
Per day Unwired parent time
Some lies (Honey there is no Wi-Fi!)
Sufficient Stored (snipped) games/cartoon series (instead of non-stop TV with inappropriate commercial breaks)
The congruous mix of all the above may work wonders. Trust me.