Last week, a two-year-old boy and his parents came to my clinic at the hospital. He seemed to be a strong and steady boy, but he was unable to speak. He was babbling all around and according to his parents, he could only say a very few words clearly. In the situation like this, I always asked the most important question: What are his activities at home?
The usual answer would be: watching TV or playing with iPad/gadgets – for hours. And sadly, that was the answer. Since he was a baby until after his first year, he would spend time with his gadgets, because he could only sit still when he had his screen time. Until his parents were told by others that having screen time for too long is damaging, then they decided to change the habits. Now, he would need his screen time during mealtime, but his parents would allow no more beyond that.
I am writing this, not to judge anyone – since I do not have the knowledge of why parents maximize the screen time to their young children. I am writing this to share my concern – as a psychologist, and moreover, as a mom.
Indonesia is having the highest amount of screen time in the whole world! This fact is not really surprising if you are familiar with the habit of how Indonesians live their daily life in front of the screens. The tense stories of Bollywood soap opera to the saddening life of Korean actress consumed hours of our daily lives. Also, with the high numbers of free online games and apps – everyone is connected to their virtual world, including young children.
Parents would claimed happily if their young children are able to arrange the digital puzzle in their iPad, or excited with their digital drawing. It seems that digital life is more satisfying that our real life. When their children have to set the real puzzle, they might not be able to complete the task, because it is more complicated – scattered pieces, upside down pictures and not-so-clear pattern. No wonder their children get lost in the real world.
So what can we do?
What about we unplugged to reconnect? We can remember the old days of parenting, where children and parents are doing things together – cooking, singing, reading, laughing, doing laundry, biking, and many more. We can do the same old-day scenes once again in this virtual world. But this time, we have to make it. Since the world has changed a lot, we need to always adjusting.
At the moment, I am reading number of Montessori books and resources – from Montessori at home, homeschooling families or the activities for my baby. I am amazed with the fact that Montessori is very down-to-earth, very close at heart and not bombarding the children with too many unnecessary toys! It opens my eyes that almost all those fancy, colorful and loud toys are not always fancy to my eyes. They are not always educative toward children, even if they seem to be. I believe there are a lot of other approaches as well, but for me personally, I will take my time to explore more on Montessori and apply the method to my son. Approaches can be made and adjust according to our children pace and dynamic.
For all of us, parents – equipping ourselves to be smart parents will never hurt. Please, avoid the community of ‘Smartphone parenting’, because the damage to our children is unbearable. It is better to strive early in the beginning and enjoy the result once our children can do their activities independently. The joy would surpass all the effort and the sweat.
Parents, long way to go!