Published: 15th November 2019
How much time can your kids spend on your smartphone? Dr Swati Popat Vats has the numbers
At the recently held launch of India's first multi-format fun learning app, Voot Kids,The Early Childhood Education (ECE) expert threw light on the fact that digital devices are not the parents' enemy
Watching videos on TV or your smartphone is not bad for your kids, say experts. Dr Swati Popat Vats, dispelled the myth that 'screen time is absolutely bad for kids' - a narrative that Indian parents seem to have a consensus on. The President of Early Childhood Association, an NGO that works on empowering parents, teachers and other ECE (Early Childhood Education) stakeholders to invest in children's holistic development and the Podar Education Network, she was a panellist at the launch of India's first multi-format fun learning app, Voot Kids, in Mumbai,
However, Swati insists that while exposing children to technology, there are certain dos and don'ts that parents should follow to the T. “For example, children below the age of 2 should not be allowed screen time at all. This is not good for their developing brains. The age of 2, where the child has just become a toddler, is the perfect time to introduce them to devices. But the time should be restricted; they can have access to 60 minutes of viewing that is divided into various 15-minute sessions spread out during the day. After the age of 4, they can be allowed 90 minutes of screen time, provided that the same rules are followed,” she emphasised.
Swati said that we are witnessing a revolution of sorts and parents cannot do anything but go with the flow, albeit making sure that their children are 'safe'. “The early man used to write on walls, after which the transition to papyrus and paper happened. During that juncture, I am sure elders would have had some issue with the change. It is the same situation that appears before us now. We have to embrace change and always remember that technology or devices are not the problem, content is. So we should focus on giving children access to good content only and filter out the bad content,” she advised parents.
Dr Swati wants to dispel the myth that technology is bad for children
“Today's children are 'digital natives' - As soon as they are born, they are exposed to digital technology. It is not right to stop children from being part of the digital revolution as it is the future. Instead, we as parents can make informed decisions for them and guide them to use it responsibly and safely,” she said, adding that co-viewing content together as a family is a very important step in this regard as it helps foster bonds between parents and children and makes the latter trust the former.
But guiding children to learn 'digital literacy' is something that will be quite difficult as parents do not have a tried-and-tested roadmap in place, unlike other things like teaching them to cross a road or use the toilet for instance. So what do we do in this situation? “Attending parent support groups where there is at least one expert present is the key. Discussions will yield to solutions and these solutions can be applied in life,” said Swati.
According to her, apps like Voot Kids allows children to be self-learners and instils confidence in them to complete tasks and learn new things on their own. “If parents allow the child to be independent, they will be independent and have enough confidence to achieve their goals. We have been involved in the content auditing of this app and from day 1, we insisted that the app should have some form of parental control so that they know that their child is being exposed to good and constructive content that will help them develop a wide range of skills and interests,” she said.