When Agu was 2 months old, a family came to visit us with their 6 year old son, from the time they entered the house till the time they left the kid was busy playing games on his dad's phone and the proud parents say "he doesn't bother about anything else as long as he has his favorite game going on the phone". I found it a bit disturbing.
When Agu was 18 months old, another family came over and their 5 year old son had his head dropped on to his mom's mobile phone screen busy playing games. Again the proud parents say "it is better he has the phone in hand, or else it gets difficult to handle him". I was deeply upset.
When Agu was 22 months old, I heard a proud mother of a 20 month old say they got her daughter an iPad and got it insured so it was ok if she dropped it on the floor. I was scared, scared because of the fact that how oblivious we are of the long term effects this might have on our kids.
How many of us have seen those little kids with heads buried deep inside their tablet or phone at the mall, at the hospital waiting for an appointment, at the restaurant, completely aloof from the world around them? I have always found this scene highly disturbing. At a very young age, when they are supposed to be running around and exploring things, there they are sitting and swiping the screens of electronic devices and once they are grown up and can't keep their hands off those devices we label and blame them "gadget addicts".
We as parents have always dreaded this addiction and have tried a lot to keep our son away from this so called fancy gadgets and here are a few lessons learnt:
Try to say NO when it is easier to say YES:
It is very easy to soothe a cranky kid with your mobile phone. When they are rolling on the floor crying for something our basic instinct will be to give them what they ask for, but then try putting in that effort to let them know there are things they can't get by throwing a tantrum. Ignore the tantrum first and talk to them once they are slightly calm. Trust me this will be really difficult at first but practice it a few times and you will be amazed by the outcome.
Make them feel like it is just another thing in the house:
The more we try to keep them away from something, the more they would feel it's something very special and they are missing out on that special thing by staying away from it. So treat the gadgets like how you treat other things in the house so that your kid would eventually get over the excitement of getting hold of a phone or tablet.
Screen lock your phone:
In case your kid gets the phone in hand he will try tapping on it a few times and finds that nothing is happening and moves over to something else. This will save us from freaking out and yelling and snatching the phone from them.
Meal time=Meal time:
Recently I saw a video where a mom is feeding her 8 month old baby with a phone strapped on to her head and video playing in it. When many others found it funny I found it very annoying as this is what we are preaching a baby as small as 8 months and later when the kid can't eat without watching a video we blame them. So right from the time they start eating solids, get a high chair, let them explore the food, let them know that meal time is for eating and it has nothing to do with watching video.
Many a times we forget the fact that habits are made by us. A toddler doesn't know what's in a phone or tablet, they don't know that they can eat chocolate whenever they ask for, they don't know about many basic things untill we introduce them to it. So all we have to do is get over those short term fixes and try to give them a healthy behavioral foundation so that we won't have to blame them, or yourself, for those little actions that speak aloud later on.