The discussion that I often face in motherhood clubs is about how to introduce communication technology and digital contents for toddlers. With no filter and habit of mimicking everything they see, gadget and internet potentially harm toddlers' mindset and behavior. In addition, gadget-freak can possibly lead toddlers to growth and mental development regress like the decline of fine motoric skills and speech delay.
But it seems impossible to not expose technology to children since their generation's supposed to be the digital native which utilizes the use of digital technology. So the remain question is, what should you do as parent(s)?
I'd like to share my experience when the first time I announced smartphone using to my daughter. She was 1.5 years old when watching her very premier YouTube video. I have consulted with pediatrician about the best things to do while displaying gadget to baby/toddler. Also with my experiences and knowledge about media consuming, then I confidently applied the steps to my girl. So far, I can say that my baby grows smarter and becomes the most critical toddler in Indonesia. 😅😋
Make Sure The Access and The Contents Are Children-Proof
Before you give the gadget to your child, assured that the gadget is safe for children. Some gadgets have features which lock children's access to certain apps. You can activate the feature so that your toddler can only access apps provided for her.
The contents must be your main focus. It will damage your baby if they contain adult materials such as violence and pornography. So you must filter all the dangerous substances. I suggest you to install YouTube Kids which you can customize depends on the profile of your child. Some kids' games in AppStore and Google Play also mention about the suitable age for using the apps, so you can follow the instruction.
Remember, even though these apps and the contents are for children, they are still need parental guidance and supervision. Block certain videos or application which aren't suitable for your kid's age profile will require parent's approval. So you must pay attention to the contents.
Limit The Access
Don't ever let your kid to be in front of the gadget for a very long time. My girl's pediatrician, dr. Markus Mualim Danusantoso, Sp.A from Bunda Jakarta Hospital once told me that children are allowed to expose gadget for ONLY TWO HOURS PER DAY. No more! The lesser the better. More than two hours can potentially damage your little one. First, it absolutely reduce growth development as I mentioned earlier in the beginning of this article.Moreover, see the gadget screen for hours can harm the eyes. Second, it can cause the lack of social ability for your toddler finds it is much better to be in front of the screen than mingle with other kids/people.
I just tolerate my daughter to use gadget for 1.5 hours per day, and it is not everyday she can play or watch through the screen. I always encourage her to play outside and move her body, whether to dance, painting, exercise, and even wall climbing. I also emphasize her that she will get smarter if she often reads books rather than watching YouTube. Videos on YouTube are only other references to enrich her imagination, but not the primary sources.
Accompany Your Child While Accessing Gadget
Once people engage with gadget, they can abandon their surroundings for they are too much interested with the schemes on screen. This behavior can motivate your kids to be selfish and anti-social because they are already accustomed to recognize the reality of their world as on screen.
That is why I emphasize you to escort your toddler during her time accessing the gadget. To keep an interaction between people to people, you must comment in every scene she watches/plays. The benefits are plenty. You can monitorize the contents, insert some knowledge she needs to know, and absolutely strengthen the bond to your kid.
For example, I never stop commenting in every videos my baby watches. "Wow, look at that. The princess is so beautiful wearing the pink dress", "I wanna eat the blueberries. Do you like it, baby?", "What does the bunny eat for her breakfast?", and so on and so on..... Even while I am doing my job, I always keep checking on her even just for ask what video she's watching right now.
Commenting on whatever she does will mark your presence arround your kid. It accentuates your position as the most significant others for your kid's life and it will lead the secure feeling in her heart. Whenever she needs approval or guidance, she will turn to her parents. Now my girl is always asking for me first whether this is good or not for her before she comes with her own decision. "Is this song good to hear for toddler, Mama?", "May I watch this movie with you?" "How to turn off this television, Mama?"
My daughter also involves me in while she accesses gadget. She asks me what kind of video or game I love to watch with her. "Mama, do you like watching Frozen with me?" She also comments in each part she considers interesting and explain it to me. "Mama, look at the cheetah. It runs so fast." In everytime she consumes media contents, that's also the right time to educate her. "Oh, look at the Planet Saturn. It has rings like my ring finger.", "See the flood, Baby? It happens if you don't put your trash in the garbage."
Your comments will also upgrade the amounts of vocabularies your kid can pronounce. Since 2.5 years old, my daughter has become a critic in every field: foods, movies, songs, and books. "I don't like the picture of this butterfly, the color is too dark", "This song is too slow. I like an upbeat song like We Will Rock You".
Keep Up With Your Kid's Favorites
In her two years old, kid can recognize what she loves and hates. She also develops her own imagination and creates a new story from what she got from reading or watching. It is important to identify the characters or stories she likes so that you can match the conversation. "Mama, I want a new drawing book of PJ Mask". If you have no clue about what PJ Mask is, your kid is easily getting upset and mad. But you can also ask her nicely to explain about PJ Mask, then do some research about it in Google.
Knowing about the stories and characters your toddler adores also can enhance your talks with them. My girl really loves Jasmine character from Aladdin. So we talk a lot about the way Jasmine does her make up, her blue dress, and the songs she sang. I also create a bed time story based on the Jasmine character which includes the magic carpet.
Share Your Favorite Digital Contents
Of course you also have digital activities like video streaming, reading online news, blogging/vlogging, and listening to music. Just like you comment on your child's online activity, you also have to let your kid comment on yours.
I always let my daughter see what I do while I'm writing for my blog. And I tell her about my favorite singers I usually hear in Spotify. Then I will respond for her reactions toward my favorite music or movie, whether she feels my taste is terrible or she also loves that.
But be cautious when your kid is around. You must be aware with the contents you consume. For example, I will change Versace on The Floor song with something safe like Taylor Swift's song. Or I will shut down my streaming while I watched movie with violence scenes and explain to her I have to do it for it can harm her. A good explanation will satisfy the little angel's curiosity.
So, Gorgeous mothers around the world. Honestly there is nothing to be afraid of as long as you can handle, control, and monitoring your little one's digital media consuming. Communication is the main key to interact and understand your kid's media behavior. Whatever the condition, do the talk with your child.