Abetting Digital Amnesia Through Parental Care

Many a time, in my OPD, I find young children to be hooked onto I-pad, tablet or smart phones with parents paying little heed to it. In fact, I find many parents even encouraging the 'cell-phone/screen culture' so that they get some time to do their work or relax. Also, playing nursery rhymes on smart phones or tablets while feeding toddlers seem to be a trend these days.

Children especially show this kind of a behaviour when they are not able to connect to the digital world for example if the Wi-Fi stops working, the data pack in the mobile phone is exhausted or there is no internet facility in the vicinity. Further children tend to communicate with strangers in the process and become a victim of exposure to unsuitable content, cyber bullying and compromise on sharing certain personal data without knowing the consequences.

Addiction to the digital world makes them evade real-life interaction. They turn oblivious to their surroundings. This in turn leads to digital addiction and ultimately DIGITAL AMNESIA.

Therefore, it becomes the parents' prime responsibility to lend a helping hand to protect the children from getting victimised, not only in the real world but also in the virtual world. This is calledDIGITAL PARENTING.

The following are some of the methods by which digital parenting can be exercised to make the children comfortable and to negate the undesirable impacts.

1. Be a good digital model - Kids will pay more attention to what you do than what you say. Maintain a good digital habits (clean content, set time limits for yourself, minimal usage of technology in front of your children).

2. Setting boundaries and rules - especially with regard to usage of digital media such as setting the usage time and contents and enforcing controls such as avoid treading into unknown areas, not to establish contact with strangers, putting off tablets, mobiles 2 hours prior to sleep and ensuring that such devices are not present in the bed room etc.

3. Use parental controls - All the major operating systems, search engines, cell phone providers and gaming platforms provide either free or inexpensive parental control to help you manage the children's online experience. As they grow older, try to switch over from controls to monitoring tools (particularly in setting time limits).

4. Make digital issues a part of their everyday conversation - Parents should openly talk to adolescents about subjects like cyber bullying, sexting and copyright infringement.

5. Cultivate good habits - They should spend time by interacting with children on a day to day basis, inculcate the art of reading books, imbibing in them ethics and values, spending quality time, encouraging outdoor activities, ascertaining their interest and facilitating in choosing hobbies and helping in spending more time with nature.

While the intention is to take advantage of the digital advancement in one's growth, we should be conscious of the risks it poses and play the game with a view to maximise our returns and minimise the negative impacts.

Remember;

"We should control technology and not the other way around"

Article by Dr. Pushkala, M.S.
MBBS, MD (Paediatrics), PGDID (UNSW-Australia)
Consultant Paediatrician, Kauvery Hospital

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