What Is Digital Health? Illustration: Sophi Gullbrants The ability to use devices such as laptops, cell phones, and smartphones without harming the mind or body is referred to as digital health. According to statistics, modern-day children spend an average of 6.5 hours a day looking at screens! Does it sound like a digital drug? Is it a concern? Alarming, right? They simply can not stop watching, playing, or texting! What is even more scary is that children as young as infants and toddlers are allowed to engage with screen time! Have you ever had the feeling that screen time has taken the place of outdoor time and has become a babysitter? I have seen parents use devices as pacifiers for their infants and toddlers! So, Is Technology Good or Bad? There might not be a simple answer to this. It is similar to a love-hate relationship. You despise them at times, but you cannot live without them! So this is how I see it! Digital technology is now more inextricably connected to our lives than we previously imagined. You may ask questions like.. "What impact will this have on my children's digital health?" According to studies, an over-reliance on digital technology leads to poor physical and mental health. The effect is apparent and detrimental! It is unavoidable that excessive use of certain unhealthy forms of technology will exacerbate feelings of anxiety and depression, disrupt sleep patterns, lead to cyberbullying, and distort body image. Did You Know? Some countries are taking action in response to these and other concerns. Legislation prohibits Korean children from playing online games that require a resident registration number between the hours of 12 A.M. and 6 A.M. without parental consent! Mental illness is expected to be the second most serious health problem afflicting Malaysians after heart disease by 2020. According to the latest National Health and Morbidity Survey, one in every three Malaysian adults aged 16 and above suffers from mental health problems. The fact is that screen time, in all of its forms, will be a part of your children's lives at some point. However, parents must consider how early and to what extent they can proceed. Is Your Child\u2019s Childhood Being Controlled by New Tech? Image credit: Tech Advisor UK There are numerous indicators that we can look for to identify whether or not our child is addicted to screens. The following are some signs that may assist you in determining if it is time for you to do something for your child's better future: \tAre your children refusing to put down their video games in order to spend time with you or for study purposes? \tAre they staying up all night and unable to get out of bed in time for school? \tHave you tried calling their name a million times and they still do not respond? \tOr are they isolating themselves and withdrawing from friends? If you find yourself in any of these situations, I can't help but think that this is a sign that you children are too immersed in digital spaces! Because of their passion towards gadgets with screens or the digital, it is very simple to identify these "screen addicts'" personality traits. What is even more important is whether screen consumption is creating instability in other areas of life or has become an all-consuming practice. Are You a Bystander? Image credit: Freepik I addressed how the digital age has changed parents and children in today's parenting environment in an earlier article about Worrying Screen Times. This is serious\u2014we must discuss children's digital health. We cannot just shut our eyes and watch! This is a very difficult time for both parents and children. Mummies, have you ever considered the effect of all this time, as well as the tension that exists in homes and schools when it comes to negotiating screen time\u2014friction that we are all too familiar with? You can slice and dice the data wherever you like, but let just face it... tech addiction is rampant! When I decided to write this post, I hoped that parents would not have to look back and think, "Why did I not talk more about digital and mental health problems with my kids?" Of course, mental health issues coincide with screen time issues. Not cool, right? But hold on! \u2026As a parent, you can do something about it! We know that exposure to the digital world will provide significant opportunities for our children, but we must not overlook the threats and distractions that it can also bring. This is where parents should step in and start thinking about how to change their children on how to use these technologies in order to maximise the benefits while mitigating the risks. Kids must 'wake up' and realise that having hundreds or thousands of Facebook friends or winning online games is not the only way to achieve online success. We cannot just sit back and watch them go down a destructive path from a young age if they are not led, right? Now, let us find a balance! How will parents help their children solve mental health issues and develop emotional agility, communication skills, and stress resilience? Find Your Child's Digital Sweet Spot Image credit: Freepik I take a very personal approach, delving into the most vulnerable corners of family life, including my own, to explore struggles with social media, video games, academics, and internet addiction. I am also trying to figure out how digital technology has advanced at such a breakneck speed. The pace of digital transformation is accelerating, and simply coping with it is no longer sufficient. Let me share 5 pearls in the hope that you will find them useful in managing your children's digital health and will share them with other families in your circle by forwarding this article if you find it useful. #1. Manage Screen Time Image credit: Getty This is where you establish your principles as "tech boundaries," "agreements," or "rules," however you want to categorise them. The key point here is to decide when screens should be turned off. It is really difficult, but you have to do it! This will make children realise that there is more to life than staring at a screen all day and night. Here, children should strike a balance between engaging with technology and developing real-life human relationships. They might say, "I'm perplexed! Texting Is Preferable over Face-to-Face Communication\u201d...Really?? Here are some examples for you to ponder upon: \tDuring meal times\u2014Are devices allowed at the table? Breakfast? Dinner? \tNight power-down\u2014When to turn off screens\/phones before bedtime \tIn the bedroom\u2014Are there screens in the bedroom? If so, do you do it all the time? Is it necessary to use a phone in the bedroom? You may want to enable parental controls for features such as showing only age-appropriate content, passwords on computers, and so on. The key, mummies, is not to punish. It is to help the children navigate the digital space and strike a balance. It goes without saying to leave some wiggle room for when the need arises. #2. Talk To Your Kids Image credit: Freepik You might start with a question like, "What are the key reasons we want to have balance in our lives in terms of screen time and other activities?" Parents: Think about your \u201cwhy\u201d\u2014why do you care how much time kids spend on screens?\u00a0 Kids: Consult with your children on how they believe screen time can be incorporated into their lives. What are some of their personal objectives in terms of family, friends, and hobbies? They will probably just shrug at first, but hopefully this will spark some fruitful discussions! It is not only about instilling knowledge in your kids, but also about how you approach them! Pop quizzes are perfect for this. Start engaging kids in discussions about digital health, ethics, and citizenship. Let them explain the kinds of thoughts and emotions they are having. Assure them that they are not alone. Make an emotional bond with them! Remember, this generation of kids does not need adults to access information. They do, however, require adults to assist them in processing and digesting the information, as well as in interpreting the data. #3. Monitor Mental Health Image credit: Pexels Scientific evidence indicates that increased use of technology is linked to increased levels of anxiety, depression, and suicide in children! Do not get me wrong: There seems to be a lot of validity in that. Online bullying, flaming, shaming, and extortion are all threats associated with social media use. Your children may appear unbothered on the surface, but what about deep down? So, what can you do as a parent? Mummies, yelling or overreacting will not help! Worse still, they will lock down and shut down. Talk to them, listen to them, respond to them, ask about their feelings...all of these will assist them in overcoming mental health problems and developing emotional agility, stress resilience, and communication savvy. Make a physical activity plan! According to recent studies, children who participate in extracurricular activities have better mental health. Can you work with other parents to arrange activities for your children? Here is another experiment for you! Try a mini-challenge with your children (or with your family\/siblings). See who can list the most number of outdoor activities in one minute. #4. Be A Good Screen Time Model Image credit: iStock I've seen children attempting to get their parents' attention or being neglected when their parents are wired in and completely unaware of their existence. Are you a guilty party? Mummies, it was also crucial for parents to set a good example! Try to introduce screen-free mealtimes and encourage them to chat about their day. For example, \u00a0\u201cIt\u2019s a family movie night, let us put away our phones.\u201d or \u201cLet us spend some time together. I am going to leave my phone in the drawer.\u201d These easy statements send powerful signals to children! The email, text or game will still be there after dinner or whatever it is that you were doing together. Have you ever noticed how kids practically "pounce" on you when you do something you have told them not to do? Did You Know? When adults demonstrate positive behaviour for kids, they learn more effectively. I am sure they will be more interested in adhering to the law of not using devices at the dinner table if they see you doing the same. You may also teach them how to develop their social skills if they spend a fair amount of time engaging with people in person rather than on the Internet by talking to them face to face. Personally, I does not understand how people can spend their whole waking day texting and messaging! Do they not talk? This is the new reality! See how you can play a major role in your children's social and emotional development? It would be much better if their active social life is balanced by their passive internet activity. #5. Screen Time Contract Image credit: thisaintthelyceum Make a contract with my kids? Did I read that right? Mummies, you read correctly! You might not realise it, but having a screen time contract can really help! It is nothing more than just writing down the rules for screen time. Take the right approach by including your children in the agreement-making process. Start with calm and quiet family discussions about defining values, setting goals, and determining consumption limits. If possible, set the bar for everyone. This is not so much a case of 'you vs. them'; as a family, you're all in this together. Even better, it helps parents to model behaviour for their kids! Trust me when I say that the more you involve them in conversations, the less likely they are to feel like they are the object of this agreement. Remember, if you prefer, you can start with a small agreement with just a couple of rules and incentives. Tip: Support their commitment by sharing something you are trying to improve on as a parent, such as phone interruption at the dinner table. Final Thoughts.. \u2018Too much of everything is bad for nothing,' as the old saying goes. Any type of digital technology is fraught with risk. What counts is how we use it and the community we build around it. In a nutshell, find your digital sweet spot and embrace digital technologies to reap positive benefits. Hold their hands as your precious children gradually enter the digital world. It is their path, as well as yours as parents. I hope my article has given you some useful tips for raising happy, safe, and technologically savvy children! For more interesting stories and fun recipes, stay tuned to Motherhood Story!