It is a well-documented fact that the pandemic left numerous issues in its wake, due to the various problems that were faced at the personal, health and mental health, educational, professional, societal as well as global level.
Looking back one remembers that the educational institutions and teachers, at least in the urban areas, rose to the occasion speedily by bringing the classes online and adapting to teaching lessons to a whole classroom of students on virtual platforms. The learning curve was never so steep for so many of the teachers.
This helped the students immensely as the routine of lessons and classes continued albeit in the ‘new normal’ mode. Gadgets ceased to be looked at as time wasters but as a necessity with students having access to laptops and smart phones through the day either to attend online classes or to do their homework/projects and submit it online or to do their exams online.
Thus, with online classes, mobile phones and computers became an important part of our children’s lives. But with the pandemic being over and behind us while we are getting back to welcoming and putting our old routines in place one cannot deny the fact that children are finding it hard to go back to life without gadgets or at least minimal usage of the same.
The sad fallout of the pandemic and online classes is that gadget addiction is catching on.
As parents it is now disconcerting to see our children still stuck to their gadgets as an extension of themselves. And as a mental health professional one hears this question many a times, ‘How do I help my child lessen gadget usage’?
Here are some ways we could help our children to minimise gadget dependence. But remember that the initiative for many of these will have to be at the adult level. Parents will have to be involved partners to get your children going on this path.
1. Role model: Let us face the bitter truth. It is not just children whose gadget dependence increased during the pandemic but many adults too have been guilty of the same. With no other outlet of entertainment it was very easy to slip into a routine of watching more YouTube videos, scrolling on social media sites endlessly, watching Netflix and Amazon Prime, and games too. So the first thumb rule would be to make the positive change in us if we want to help our children. Keep that laptop/phone of yours away and let your child observe this change.
2. Bring out those family games: Today, children get bored easily and need constant stimulation. One of the main urge to turn to the gadget is boredom. Give them an interesting substitute and get them hooked to it. Bring out family games such as carrom, chess, scrabble and the other board games. Remember, it takes a thief to catch a thief! It would take an engrossing offline game to get your child off an online game.
3. Invest in going out: Let’s face it. The pandemic made not just children but many of us adults too, into couch potatoes. Many even now prefer to be in the comfort of their homes and not venture out. But we need to dust off those habits and get out of our comfort zones. Take your children and go out for dramas, treks, day picnics, vacations and family get-togethers. You may face some resistance initially but be patient and just help them see for themselves how much more fun these real-life experiences are.
4. Get them back to their old routines: Help your children to get back to their old routines of playing with friends, or the extra-curricular activities that they were pursuing such as dance, music, drawing and so forth. Choose the in-person class rather than the online option that the teacher may now be offering. It may mean an extra trip for you to get your child to the in-person class but it’s worth it.
5. Get them to try new hobbies: Concurrently, you can help them try out new hobbies, which could hold their attention.
6. Educate them of the pitfalls: Nowadays, children need to be given logical explanations as to why adults are saying no to some activity. A good idea is to show them good videos, talks by experts, which would help convey the point and not make you look like a nagging parent who is always sermonising.
7. Create a ‘No’ gadget time: Have a daily ‘No’ gadget time wherein no one touches their gadgets but keeps oneself busy doing other things. You could turn it into a game where the one who succeeds gets a small reward. This will help build self control and ease them into not turning to their gadgets all the time.
8. Seek professional help if required: However sometimes parents would observe that no amount of intervention is helping their child wean off from his/her gadget. At such times, it would be best to seek professional help who can then guide both the parents and children.