Addressing The Challenges of Parenting In The Digital Age: Insights From CBSE Schools

In today’s interconnected or rather hyper-connected world, if one had to name a particularly challenging role it will certainly have to be parenting. Parents are today increasingly grappling with challenges such as online safety, and managing screen time on the one hand, and changes in attitudes such as the need for instant gratification on the other. If you also find yourself in unchartered territory, here is help from one of the best CBSE schools in Gurgaon.

Set Limits

First things first. It is important that you treat media like any other environment in your child’s life. For instance, when the child goes outdoors to play, there are a few rules that the child needs to follow, one of them being that he or she needs to be back by a certain time. You also make sure that you know who the child’s friends are. Digital media needs to be no different. For one, you have to set effective limits on its usage on an age-appropriate basis. As a thumb rule, you need to avoid digital media for toddlers younger than 18 to 24 months. Similarly, it is best to limit screen use for preschool children, ages 2 to 5, to at best 1 hour a day, preferably not at a stretch. Having rules around not using media during meal times, just before going to bed and more are other effective boundaries that you need to put in place. Having designated tech-free zones also works well. This encourages more family time, healthy eating habits, better sleep, and more. Speaking of family time, it is important to remember that even screen time need not necessarily be alone time. You can look at options of co-viewing, playing a game together, and more- in other words engaging with children! That these can be times to bond, even share some life lessons, is a given! Pro tip- Do not use media as an emotional pacifier. Ever so often we may offer them the phone just so that they can calm down. It is important to remember that you need to offer children strong coping tools to navigate and channelize their emotions. Ideally, the media should not be one of them. Adopting the convenient route of offering them electronic devices to get through one’s work, also doesn’t work well in the long run.

It isn’t, however, enough to tell your child what they can’t do. What you need to do is to offer them healthy alternatives. These could range from activities such as gardening, family game nights, read-a-thons, and more. The importance of real-life experiences in fostering healthy brain development in children cannot be stated enough.

All of that said, it stands to reason that as adults we need to model this behavior. To have a no mealtime media rule & to not follow it yourself, for example, is a recipe for disaster.

healthy brain development in children

Online Safety

Ensuring the online safety & well-being of children demands that you know what platforms, software, and apps your children are using, what sites they are visiting on the web, and essentially what they are actually doing online. With younger children what works well are appropriate controls. You also need to encourage open communication so that children open up with you & share any inappropriate content that they encounter. With older children, particularly, the only thing that can work is keeping lines of communication open. Teens need to be educated on how they are creating a digital footprint for themselves. They also need to be taught the importance of privacy and the dangers of sexual predators on the internet. Children also need to be educated about cyberbullying so that they neither fall prey to it nor become perpetrators themselves. While all of this sounds like a tall order, simply put, just as you would ensure that your teen behaves well in the offline world, so should it be online!

Parenting In The Digital Age

Instant Gratification

The one thing digital media is also perpetuating is instant gratification. After all, we live in times of instant deliveries of anything that you need via a host of apps. This is one area parents need to be mindful of. We have all heard of the famous Stanford marshmallow experiment which was a study on delayed gratification. In this study, children were offered a choice between one small but immediate reward, or two small rewards if they waited for a period of time. During this time, the child was left in a room with a single marshmallow for about 15 minutes. If they did not eat the marshmallow, they were offered another reward. Interestingly, in follow-up studies, researchers found that children who were able to wait longer for the preferred rewards tended to have better life outcomes.

The next time you reach out for your phone to order whatever the child demands, at the very instant the child demands, think again. It may work well to delay gratification. You need to remember, however, that the delay needs to be reasonable and age-appropriate. You cannot, for example, tell a preschooler that you will buy a certain thing one year hence and expect him to understand. Telling him that something will be made available on Friday or three days hence may be far more reasonable.

To sum up

The most important aspect is to ensure that children understand the importance of using media responsibly. Promoting responsible and balanced use of online platforms is therefore key. That said, you need to be prepared for the fact that children will make mistakes using media, led by peer pressure & more. It will work well to be empathetic and to make use of these instances as coachable moments. Of course that does not mean that you should ignore any red flags such as bullying, self-harm & more. Should you face an issue of over-dependence on media or addiction to media, do not hesitate to seek professional help.

Here’s to raising a generation of responsible digital natives!

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April 2024