As an eye specialist, I get a lot of parents with complaints that their child watches TV or plays games on cell phone/tablet/x-box etc a lot. How to curb that habit? Parents ask me to counsel their kid, I do that. I tell kids to limit their TV watching and video games to 1 hour per day. But does that solve the problem? Mostly, not.
We need to understand that times have changed a lot than when we were children and now. Firstly, television came pretty late in our childhood and with limited programs. There were no cell phones or video games. We were perpetually playing outdoors for hours, especially during vacations. Nowadays, due to security issues it’s tough to let kids stay out on their own. In our childhood we were usually sun burnt and thin while kids today are gaining unhealthy weight.
In today’s scenario, parents need to be involved not only in the academics but in the sports activities of kids as well. I would say be firm in limiting the TV and video game time of children to 1 to 1.5 hours per day, but think of alternatives to keep them busy. Some suggestions are –
- Kids can join any sport activity they are interested in e.g. skating, tennis, cricket, swimming, badminton etc. With multiple sport centers, its not that tough to enroll children. This will not only improve their activity level, but will improve their sleep and appetite too.
- Try not to watch TV and play games a lot yourself in front of kids. Parents love to watch their programs on TV while eating food or play games on cell phones cos they need to relax after a hectic day. This tends to set up a wrong example for children.
- If for whatever reason, its not possible to enroll your child in any sport activity, there are other options as well at home to keep them busy. But for that I feel child needs company, either of sibling or friends, otherwise they get bored easily. Some suggestions of home activities are below –
- Install a small swimming pool in backyard in summers and let the kids have fun
- Window pane painting
- Create a hurdle track at home
- Face painting with safe colors
- Painting disposable cups and plates (kids might get bored painting on books)
- Small canvas paintings
- The best activity which I like is giving them liquid paints on side-walks (winters) or on a polythene sheet and let them do whatever they want
Over time I have realized that giving kids a free reign can surprise you with their creative talent and it definitely burns of the excess energy. If kids have their own room where they are allowed to do anything and everything, that also can prompt them to do some activity in their room and not stick to more of TV or video games.