New Year's Resolution: Reduce Your Kid's Screen Time!
Is your child really learning through Online Classes? Is too much screen time bad for learning and development? Let’s bust some myths, highlight the perils and provide some actionable alternates! Start the year by focusing on the health of the family!
Jolted out of her deep slumber at 7 AM, 13-year-old Anjana gulps down a glass of warm milk, dons her school uniform and props herself up in front of a laptop screen. Is it the weekend you may ask, but in fact it’s another day of school during the lockdown. This routine is her new daily warm-up for her online lessons.
Like many others her age, she finds herself adjusting to the fact that a major part of her learning experience no longer lies within the conventionally familiar classroom structure.
Owing to the paradigm shift defined by the pandemic, much of our work, education and communication now come from the other side of our screens, and even children aren’t spared of this ordeal.
As adults, we’ve managed to adapt well to this new work dynamic, and oddly begun to seek comfort in the frozen screens, audio glitches and handy mute/disable buttons typical of Zoom. The same, however, cannot be said of children.
Parents of school-going kids have expressed major concerns over increased screen time adversely affecting their child, and resulting in distraction, reduced attention span, poor retention and a general sense of disconnect and demotivation.
A recent study by the National Institutes of Health validates these concerns, in showing that children spending approximately 2 hours on screens have lower thinking/reasoning power and language processing ability.
What’s more alarming to parents is that, a routine that’s harmlessly formed as a way of learning or attending classes, slowly manifests into an addiction that they barely manage to wean their children away from. What triggers this addiction? Dopamine.
Studies indicate that screen usage releases dopamine in the brain, acting in a manner similar to that of drugs, thereby impeding impulse control and brain activity.
One such striking and more recent example of screen addiction is the phenomenon that is PUBG. This online game centred on battlefields, strategy and a “chicken dinner”, took the world by a storm, and witnessed gamers across age groups engrossed in their screens for hours on.
Presumably, for patrons of this game, the one thing that supersedes the shame of losing a game is the nightmare of seeing it get banned. And that’s exactly what happened in India, a country that enjoyed over 200 million downloads of the game!
As is the case for every rant, rumour or rage worthy of being shared with the masses, social media played the messenger for this one too, and propagated the angst and fury felt by Indian fans of the game.
A shocking, yet amusing instance of this was when a rant like video posted by a young boy by the name of Sujal, went viral. In the video, Sujal is seen complaining about the ban, tormented about his favourite pastime being snatched away unfairly, and even wishing that Instagram be banned in place of PUBG!
What’s alarming is that a kid is more disheartened by an online game being banned, rather than his outdoor playtime being taken away on account of CoVid-19! It’s the opposite of what we would tend to assume, and precisely why screen time for kids is far more dangerous than it seems.
One can only hope that where there’s a predicament like screen exposure, there’s also an opportunity to recognize the maladaptive behaviour stemming out of it and turn things around for the better or at least something that would return the smile on little Sujal’s face.
Luma World decided to do both, when they made it their mission to find Sujal and surprise him with a package of their products!
An education startup striving to pioneer game-based learning techniques for kids, Luma World's message to parents shines some much-needed light on the detrimental effects of exposing their children to too much screen time, subsequently advising them to switch to age appropriate cognizance building activities.
Their goal is to help transition the learning process from rote memorization to practical learning through play. “At Luma World, we blend academic concepts, life skills, teamwork and moral values into games and other activities so that kids never realize they’re “studying” but rather gain all essential skills while having fun!” says Sajid Chougle, the Creative Director and Co-Founder at Luma World.
Their belief is that the learning process shouldn’t be in silo, and rather be a social activity (in the traditional sense) based on curiosity, discovery and exploration. True to this ideology, their products, all of which are physical, range from multiplayer games, flash cards, thematic apply books and activity kits that allow children to learn and interact in groups.
To prove that this learning methodology is effective and improves retention and application, Luma World chose to kick off their project by taking on the most fear-inducing subject of them all – Maths! Dreaded concepts like fractions, geometry and measurement are cleverly disguised as Sci-Fi or fantasy games, all the while remaining aligned to actual school curriculum and core learning objectives.
For instance, one of their games called Mystic Arts pulls its players into a world of potions, magic, witches and wizards. Although it focuses on measurement related concepts and operations, kids don’t go into the game fearing this, they simply pick up a magic themed game, play it and learn in the process.
As hoped for, the makers of these games at Luma World, have watched kids get completely involved in the games they create, forgetting about their electronic devices, forgetting that it’s math but not forgetting to learn! No screens, no isolated learning, no rote-memorization, but plenty of fun, strategizing and learning guaranteed. It also enables parents to play with their children, gauge their ability to apply concepts, and aid them wherever necessary.
One key takeaway from this, for parents, is to view the lockdown, not as a challenge but as an opportunity to foster a screen free, risk free, fun learning environment for the holistic development of their kids. An environment that allows children to explore, discern, apply themselves and make choices without the fear of being evaluated for grades or marks.
Remember, kids never fail to fascinate us with their unique perspectives, vivid imagination and distinctly creative ways of making sense of the world around them. The wise thing to do is to lend them a hand in channelling this imagination and creativity into something that helps them learn, not for scores or tests, but purely for the joy of learning!
This article has been written by Avanthika Ravichandran as part of her small business project for a Digital Marketing course with the Indian Institute of Digital Education.