Screen time is not all that bad.

For better or for worse, the advancement of technology has permeated every aspect of our lives and profoundly affects the way we live. Digital literacy has become an essential part of a child’s development now more than ever. As parents, it is important to recognise that not all screen time is bad. Instead, we should learn to embrace and adapt to it positively.

Here are tips to help ensure your child uses screen time positively:

1.  Educate them when they’re little

Don’t wait till they turn into sullen teens intent on keeping their own privacy. Teach your young kids now about a balanced approach towards technology. Keep an open and honest conversation with your child about the positive and negative impact of screen time. Instil in them good habits for self-control. Like everything else, there will come a time where it will be impossible for you to monitor your child. So before that time comes, you will need to perhaps be less militant and give them the space to learn to make the right decisions.

2.  Technology together, not apart

Studies have shown that engaging technology together is a wonderful way to bond with the family. There are plenty of high-quality materials in the market that promotes active engagement amongst family members. Whether it is having a dance-off on your Playstation4 or working together to deliver a variety of dishes with Overcooked, your children would love to see the fun side of you. If you are in for some downtime, perhaps you could stream a movie on Netflix that the whole family can enjoy together?

If bursting the internet quota is a worry, families could opt for a plan like MaxisONE Prime which allows them to rest easy with the magic word – unlimited. Unlimited mobile internet for the whole family (principal and all shared lines), all under one easily manageable package. As the average Malaysian spends a total of RM229 on data, with MaxisONE Prime, they can save up to RM42 per month*.

*depending on size of household

3. Parents to promise too

Even as adults, we may have moments of weakness when spend a little too much time scrolling our Instagram feed. Unfortunately, unless you lock yourself up in the bathroom, you most likely have little pairs of eyes observing you. According to Anya Kamenetz, author of The Art of Screen Time: How Your Family Can Balance Digital Media and Real Life, “Managing your own use is crucial to successfully helping your kids self-manage.” It starts with having a family agreement on what is a reasonable amount of time to be spent on our screens, for everyone. Some families go to the extent of signing a pledge which could be something your family could do too.

4. Keep the connections strong

Let the kids understand the very best thing about technology – that it allows us to keep loved ones close. Programmes such as Skype and FaceTime allow us to stay in touch on a regular basis without costing us much. Our children may easily communicate with their grandparents who might live in a different state or with a cousin who might be in a different country. In this instance, do not worry about the screen at all. Having back and forth conversations helps with their language skills and social interactions!

If you as a parent had to be away for a work trip, separation anxiety would certainly be minimised thanks to technology. Parents and families who are MaxisONE Prime customers can take all the time in the world for calls with their little ones, with unlimited Free Family Roaming in all ASEAN countries. Gone are the days of watching the clock, worrying about those crazy roaming charges!

5.  Encourage Resourcefulness

Your children could be like the students who are taking more responsibility for their own learning, using technology to gather information. Programmes such as Google Classroom provides opportunities for students to communicate and collaborate in ways that were previously undreamt of.

Your child could learn to be resourceful not only through educational materials but through games as well. Kim Komando writes about the hidden benefits of Minecraft, a popular computer game, for USA Today: “One overlooked value of most strategy-based video games is resource management. The player has a finite amount of resources at any given time and needs to decide wisely how to use them most effectively.”

Although your child, even you, may not notice at the time, these skills are essential for later on in life. It is your role as a parent, to ensure that technology is rightly utilised. Organisations like Common Sense Media lists reviews about age-appropriate apps, games and programmes to guide you in making the best choices for your children.

6.  Recognise behavioural changes

There are plenty of guidelines out there on how much screen time a child should get. However, we need to recognise that every child is different. As a parent, it is important to watch out for changes in your child’s behaviour. Do they experience bedtime and wake up battles? Do they suffer from mood swings, is there any loss in appetite or any sudden weight gain? These could be signs that they are spending too much time with their devices. Speak to your pediatrician about it if necessary. As a rule of thumb, screen time should not affect sleep, studies, family time and exercise time. You could have the option to control your kids’ internet time by assigning internet quotas such as MaxisONE Prime DataPool.

7.  Tools for filtering and monitoring

You can support your child’s learning with the right content. But with such a wide and scary variety of websites and information out there, how can you be sure your child is surfing safely? Statistics show that a low percentage of parents installed parental control software because 59 per cent of them never heard of such software.

But there are many programmes available that can assist you in monitoring your child’s usage, such as MaxisONE Prime’s KidNanny. The only parental control for cyber safety you’ll need, KidNanny allows you to filter inappropriate websites and ensure that your child can only access family-friendly apps. You can also manage and track screen time and remotely prevent unwanted access to your child’s device.

8.  Stranger danger

Children need to be instilled with proper internet etiquette and learn to be diligent about what is being posted. They need to understand that anything they post online, will forever be part of their internet footprint. Where possible, try to ensure that your child’s privacy setting is set to the maximum. Once they have reached a certain age, talk to them about the existence of sex offenders and the possibilities of them hiding behind different identities in social networking sites and online games, among others. They should be confident enough to know to leave the website and inform a trusted adult immediately if they feel uncomfortable, unsafe or worried.


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“Mummy, I want to do a toy review.”

“Ok. Go ahead.”

“But I need the camera, mummy.”

As my wife and I laughed, it occurred to us that this was the first time our son ever asked to do one. We just bought him a toy robot which he really liked and wanted to talk about.

For those in the dark (though I highly doubt it), there is a famous YouTube channel of a boy reviewing his toys with the help of his parents and sister. I can’t elaborate much as I’m not exactly his target audience but my son certainly is and he is a huge fan. I can safely say the same for millions of other kids around the world.

This new-found confidence my 5-year-old son exuded had me thinking of all the articles and videos stressing how detrimental gadgets can be for children.

But, just how detrimental can they be?

Now, this might be controversial, so I’ll whisper it – they might not be all that bad.

There are enough information out there to support the argument against it. Allow me to play devil’s advocate.

Computers as a learning aid

A research paper that studies the effect of computers on children as an audio-visual aid state that computers allow them to use a vast mine of information. A child’s learning rate differs from one to the other. It’s one of the many things that makes each of us unique. Having seen my son grow up during these past five years, I can see that he absorbs sounds and images at a rapid rate and makes them part of his daily lexicon. This gave him an edge when he started pre-school. I have also seen other children count, identify colours and shapes, and name body parts at the tender age of three, thanks to catchy rhymes and songs.

The same research paper also mentioned that computers as a learning aid help do away with people’s racial, ethnic and colour features. They also help develop communication without prejudices and build a common global culture. Personally, I can vouch for this as I cannot recall a single moment where my son asked why another person is of a different skin colour, or talks in a different language. Sure, he’ll have his opinion later in life but at this stage, I’m happy with the fact that he’s oblivious to race, colour or creed. With all that is happening in the world today, a tiny bit of ignorance is certainly bliss.

On the subject of language, one in particular is making headway among young children today. Although there are variants of it, it is more commonly known as ‘coding’. Essentially, they are lines of programming codes that are used to create applications and websites. They are now so widely used and simplified, that even nine year olds are capable of creating useful mobile applications. This breeds a new level of creativity and innovation, and has a large community of developers that interacts frequently.

Practicalities and Opportunities

The sheer number of devices in this world makes it almost impossible to avoid using one. In fact, a Statista survey made in March 2016 found that 21% of Malaysian respondents made use of two connected devices on a daily basis. That amounts to one in every five of the population. So, why not make the best out of a situation? If parents are not keen on giving their children access to the Internet too early but want to see how they react to these devices, fret no further. There are other offline alternatives out there that use cartridges containing various learning materials.

There is also the opportunity to teach manners and discipline with children when using these devices. A more fun way to limit the usage is by using a timetable where you can chuck in other tasks and chores. Also, promises have always been a weapon for parents. A trip to Legoland for good marks at school. An ice cream cone for cleaning a room. A new football for good behaviour. An hour of Minecraft on the tablet for completing their homework. It’s the same difference.

However, we simply cannot ignore the negatives – some are undeniably justified. Long-period usage of electronic devices can affect a child’s eyesight, especially if they view them too close for comfort or use them in the dark. Addiction can also be a problem. Even adults can be attached to devices with all the content the Internet provides us. So, one can only imagine what it can do to an innocent child. More worryingly, children may access unwanted and vulgar content. Unfortunately, there are people out there who think it is ‘funny’ to make videos of cartoon characters doing filthy acts to one another, knowing very well that children are bound to click on any links that have the names of their favourite superheroes. Those are just a few but harmful examples of using electronic devices unsupervised.

Technology and Parenting

That last word – unsupervised – is paramount to the arguments for and against. Under proper supervision and censorship, electronic devices mixed with a sprinkle of magic that is the Internet can be the ultimate teaching tool for our little ones. We can’t deny the fact that these devices are going nowhere and will forever be integrated in our daily lives.

That’s where our parenting skills come into play. It goes without saying that it will be us who will mould our children into the adults they become. One can even say that learning to balance or limit access to these devices is unprecedented, as parents of yesteryear did not have to deal with what we face today. However, that is no excuse. Parenting is something you learn as you go. As this article mentioned early on, each child is different. That includes how they deal with instructions. So, we can read all the do’s and dont’s when it comes to finding the perfect balance but ultimately, we, the parents will need to make the decision.

I have no doubt in my mind that we will make the right one.

By Kimi Jamalus

Mohd Hakimi Jauhari Jamalus juggles the responsibilities of being an IT consultant for a UK-based online media company with being a father to a son and daughter every day. He always find new things to learn when it comes to parenthood and is enjoying every second of it.