Recently, there have been some terrifying news that disturbing, horrifying videos have been showing up on YouTube Kids. Well, that has actually been going around for a while now, and even before YouTube Kids came about, it was already quite an ordeal to vet through videos on YouTube. So, as a parent, how do you curb all these rubbish? For one, stop using the screen as a way to babysit your children.
Some may say, “I am a busy parent, I work, I have so many kids, etc”. Well, we all have our struggles, but giving in to our children whims and fancies, mollycoddling them and using the screen as a nanny is not the way to do it. Of course it is easy to just pass the phone or tablet to the child when they are so darn annoying, but is it the right thing to do or not? Well, so far, the way we managed to curb excessive use of devices and YouTube is by setting up rules.
Rules, rules, rules
Don’t get me wrong. As a former editor of tech, gadget and games magazines, I love tech. I think technology is great, and there are so many apps that can benefit children. However, there is a difference between controlled and unbridled usage. For example, we have a variety of devices at home; TV, computers, tablets, phones, gaming consoles. But we also have rules. #bbquah is almost 3 years old, and honestly, you can’t totally avoid the device, especially when there is a preteen at home who has more leeway. So, what we do is have these few guidelines in our family.
- No screens at all during mealtimes. All messages, calls, and game notifications can wait.
- No YouTube on phones. Only on the shared TV, shared computer, or shared iPad. This is so we can monitor what is being watched. No earphones either when watching.
- All devices belong to mom and dad. We can lend, we can take away. Scream, cry, roll on floor, and you still won’t get it. In fact, tantrums mean taking away screen-time privileges too.
- Always ask permission to use device.
- No means no. Yes means yes. There is no “go ask mom/dad”.
- No devices allowed in bedroom. Sneak in one, and screen-time privileges are removed.
- Parents are allowed to check your phone at any given time. There is privacy, and then there is safety. If you think that you have something in your phone that we shouldn’t read/know about, then question yourself if you should be doing all that in the first place.
- If you are having device timeout, and if you utter the word “bored”, then you will be given extra chores to do instead to relive your “boredom”.
- No watching videos in high volume at any event, even if we allow you to watch during some boring adult outings, or when we have urgent work to finish. Have respect for people around you. No earphones either because we don’t want to cultivate the habit of not hearing what is going on around.
So, do I have all the time in the world to entertain my kids when they are not allowed devices? Of course not. Being a working SAHM (which is a bigger pain than a SAHM, seriously, but that is another post for another time), I have to find ways to give them things to do so I can work. Generally, here are some non-device entertainment that we cultivate our kids to do by themselves, or with each other.
- A LEGO table to build whatever they want.
- A file of colour pencils, paper, and stickers.
- Drawing and colouring some colouring pages that we find online.
- Painting. (When we don’t mind the cleanup).
- Kinetic Sand. (Weekends only when both parent are around for cleanup, or when we are feeling hardworking).
Sometimes, they do their own thing such as making a tent using tables, chairs and blankets. Or taking used papers and making paper aeroplanes and throwing around the room. Sometimes #theSmally and #bbquah will play the piano together.. or try to. Or they will grab a box and make into something to play with. Do they fight? OMG yes. I always end up feeling like a broken record. But although it is tiresome, we just think it is our responsibility as a parent to deal with this tiresome thing.
Most importantly, sit down with your children often to explain the things of the world. What is wrong, what is right. You don’t need to explain every single decision, but you need to also let your children learn discernment on vetting the videos they watch on YouTube. Oh, also make sure you login into YouTube with your/family account so you can monitor histories too. Just in case.