Parenting matters in cutting kids’ screen time

By Lu Yuanzhi Source:Global Times Published: 2020/2/14 20:33:40

Illustration: Luo Xuan /GT

The outbreak of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) cast a shadow over this year's Spring Festival. To reduce the chance of infection, relevant Chinese authorities have encouraged the public to stay at home. Thanks to advances in technology, electronic devices can be used as babysitters to prevent children from acting up. When chatting with my cousins about what their toddlers were doing to pass the time, they tell me their children are watching cartoons on a tablet, or playing games online.

It reminds me of the days when I was in the kindergarten. When I arrived home from the kindergarten, my mother would turn on the television and switch to the channel that showed cartoons. I would then be absorbed, not showing any vigor to disturb her as she worked in the kitchen.

Parents are always deft at distracting their kids with the help of gadgets. This makes parenting easier. The most common one to distract Generation Y is television, while for the later generation it is smartphones or tablet computers. Currently, whenever your kids are crying, or throwing up temper tantrums, encouraging them to watch cartoons or play online games on smartphones can on most occasions calm them down. However, there are drawbacks.

According to the Economist, an official survey of 1 million pupils in 2018 showed that 72 percent of those aged from 12 to 14 had myopia, up from 58 percent in 2010. A study report by the World Health Organization in 2018 revealed the rate of myopia among Chinese adolescents was the highest in the world. The incidence of the eye disorder among the younger generation of Chinese has drawn widespread attention. Parents are worried about the deteriorating eyesight of their offspring. A 2019 survey indicated 82.8 percent polled parents blamed electronic gadgets for the condition.

In the internet era, increasing reliance on electronic appliances has become popular.  Some assignments given to the young generation need to be completed with the help of electronic gadgets. At the weekend or during holidays, parents generally send their kids to cram schools so they can achieve outstanding academic performance. To save commuting time, online cram schools are becoming popular. Being familiar with such technology at an early certainly helps schoolchildren.

Nevertheless, it has its flipside. Too much exposure to screens does not only waste time, but also undermines eyesight, especially children's, whose vision is developing. 

Schools and parents should guide children to rationally use the internet and electronic appliances. It has to be acknowledged that the temptation of electronic gadgets is too strong for even adults to resist. I'm ashamed to say that I was addicted to a TV drama and could not help but watch it until 4 am one day. Parents may be wiser to supervise their children's utilization of electronic appliances or set a fixed schedule for kids to use them. 

Besides, a great number of parents are used to playing games on smart phones at home, which sets a bad example for kids. Parents are children's first teachers and they should serve as role models by reducing their own screen time and persuading their kids to spend time outdoors.

Many people are spending much of their time at home amid the coronavirus epidemic. Parents should regard this as a rare opportunity to reinforce family bonds. Rather than just letting their children immerse themselves in a screen, parents can read some thought-provoking books with their kids and then exchange their thoughts on what they read. Doing away with smartphones and tablets, a lot of fun to be found.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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