Dr Priti Swarup -
During my medical college days, I came across the concepts of ‘disuse atrophy’ and ‘overuse hypertrophy’. Although the terms are used in the anatomical context, for e.g., as humans evolved from apes, gaining an erect posture over the years, the entire body weight started falling on the human feet making them grow bigger and stronger as compared to our hands, the terms have stayed on my mind even today. Little did I know that they will be in some way applicable to present-day scenario too.
Humans as a species, are at large the best at adapting. Whatever comes our way, we adapt. We all have started adjusting and living with this pandemic somehow. Needless to say, it is a fact and need of the hour, that we have in a way adjusted ourselves with the extended hours at the virtual platforms, glued to our phones, tablets, laptops, computers, etc. Investing in physical set ups may soon become things of the past.
As everything goes online, be it work, education, music, yoga, practically every kind of input, already the eye-neck-shoulder-back muscles and our mind is automatically getting tuned to performing tasks virtually. We are getting used to the bright lights emitting from the gadgets and sounds of these gadgets going almost directly into the auditory canal, owing to all sorts of listening devices, thanks to technology once again.
What is Screen Time? Screen time includes all the exposure to electronic devices with a screen, and it includes learning gadgets, gaming devices, music players, light displays or sound machines. But how much is too much? Cannot be said this about future generations, but the present ones need to take some important steps towards the sensible use of technology, as the dangers of excessive usage are equally harmful. As per experts, some potentially harmful effects of this over-usage are adverse effects on overall health due to disrupted sleep patterns, lack of physical activity, deviation in the circadian rhythm of the body, irritability, headaches, dry eyes, postural problems, poor social skills, learning or behavioural problems too. Here are the 10 things that can be of some help during such evolving times:
1 - Be a role model: First and the foremost, parents should consider the screen usage too, they need to demonstrate good behaviour for their kids to follow. It is imperative to lead by example. Keeping aside your gadgets frequently shall provide the parents too with the moments of mindfulness with the loved ones.
2 - Set ground rules: As long as possible, better not to provide the kids with a personal phone. Rather, encourage the use of high-quality tablets or computer for learning purpose. Ground rules can be set like no usage of the gadget on the dinner table, or in the bedroom, or until the school-work is finished. Periods of ‘digital-detoxification’ are important too!
3 - Frequent breaks: As prescribed, a break of 10-15 minutes is required between the online classes during school hours, sticking to an individual class not lasting more than 35-40 minutes. Taking a walk, consuming healthy snacks and performing chair yoga or stretches during the break is strongly advised by the experts, now more than ever.
4 - Prioritise sleep: A good night’s uninterrupted sleep shall give the child more control and active hours the next day, rather than lethargy and irritability. Global health standards for length of sleep according to the age of the child may be referred and adhered to. Bedtime may then be fixed to introduce a sense of routine.
5 - Monitoring the content: It is also important to have surveillance over the content being consumed, and to eliminate the exposure to possible toxic content by applying relevant locking mechanisms and parental controls on the apps being used by the kids. Setting a time limit to the usage of Internet and auto-locking after a specific time-period can be an option too.
6 - Social connect: Most kids who began their schooling experience have experienced it virtually only. In that case, the social development and grooming the schools used to provide may become a missing element for such generation. It is then crucial to make them connect with family members and relatives over video chat and calls, which shall help them nurture their relationships too.
7 - Can be boring too: Excess use of screens can too be boring at times. Activity menu can be set to encourage them to take up crafts, reading books and physical activity in the form of outdoor play, taking due safe distancing & hygiene precautions.
8 - Focus on wellness: With frequent phases of lockdown and re-openings, playing out in the open might be difficult always. It then is of utmost importance that in the absence of outdoor schedule, 30-45 minutes daily exercise routine is followed. Performing eye exercises and looking at greenery intermittently during the day is also vital for maintaining healthy vision.
9 - Go creative: Organising online birthday parties is the new normal. Kids may be encouraged to come up with creative fun ideas, set their own parties, and extra bonus may then be provided to them in the form of their favourite meal, dessert or movie-time.
10 - Be there with your child: The pandemic has provided us with a blessing in disguise that now in a way we are able to spend quality time with our kids. Playing with them, listening to their needs, seeing their undiscovered skills, helping in inculcate a new hobby, gives a deeper insight into their life too.
Last but not the least, go easy on yourself and the kids too. In such times, it’s not too right to set strict limits, rather be compassionate with the loved ones. And in the end, if this pandemic doesn’t go away sooner, be ready for an evolved permanently stooped neck, curved yet strengthened back, a strong sitting mechanism and adjusted pupils!