Zero Screen Time – Our Experience

Why did you start doing Zero Screen Time? I recently got asked this a lot

A little bit of background, during the first lockdown when Aiman and I were pretty much learning to adapt to the new norm ie Working from home with a newborn, we were exhausted (just like everybody else hahaha! I’ve always preferred working from office). It was also during that period when Yusuf started rolling himself over. So that was the start of “we have to pay a lot more attention but we’ll get back to you after our call k baby but ehhhhh wait he’s rolling closer to the couch he might get hurt but no I can’t get out of this meeting just yet. Can you? No? Ok la nevermind, on TV, maybe he’ll get distracted” – boundaries were a bit blurred between home stuff and work stuff, as for most of us all.

That was the start of Yusuf seeing us glued to screens (laptops and phones) that when we let him just hold our phone he was quiet…… and so the start of the magical Cocomelon too! 😀 This thing is like drugs, it captures the attention of kids almost immediately. It started of as “ok I need 5 minutes, can you watch Cocomelon sekejap”, and then quickly went to “I need 10 minutes to cook your lunch *switches on Cocomelon*”. Eventually it became a habit because it did give us the peace and quiet we craved for at that time. We ourselves started whipping out our phones when we leave him in playpens at grandparents’ house. Plus we actually quite like the lessons that Cocomelon teaches in their songs, like brush your teeth, say please and thank you, clean up etc. hahahahaha! #priorities

As he grew older month after month, we saw him being attracted to either the remote control, my phone or Aiman’s even if there was nothing playing on it. He would pick it up even if we’re not holding it and passes it on to us and starts pressing or swiping the screens. So I was saying, “so funny that kids just really love remote controls and phones kan?”. And then a friend of ours actually said “well maybe it’s because he sees you being able to actually pay a lot of attention to the phone” which made logical-sense to me. In my mind I was trying to put myself in Yusuf’s shoes. Mummy/Abah can look at that thing (phone) for so long and sometimes we even laugh at it too (watching a funny content possibly), I want her to look at me for that long toooo and play with me like that all day everydayyy.

So recently we had his check up and Dr Iqbal had advised for us to reduce screen time. Why? Because young children learn most deeply from interactions. The word used here was reduce because we all acknowledge this, that in this day and age, having zero screen time altogether is impossibleeeee, what more with the new norm that parents are working from home now (and for mom and dad’s sanity too!). Doctor said that if you want to give him screen time, can. However you need to interact with him too, do it together, brief and interactive and explain what’s happening on screen and have a 2 way conversation with him, that way he will learn to have conversations and learn about cooperation too. Plus it will also teach him to talk to you and learn new words much faster throughout the process.

Why is it recommended to be supervised? Coz leaving Yusuf to watch cocomelon on TV/phone/iPads alone meant that only Cocomelon is “talking” to him and he’s not learning to “reply back” to Cocomelon. Also, the bright colours and graphics are what attracts kids to screen. Especially when they touch the phone and it changes screen, it’s hypnotizing hahaha! 😂 Apparently, zero screen time is recommended for kids below 2 years old and limited screen time afterwards.

So we’re trying it out and we’re on Day 10 today and Yusuf has surely understood a lot more requests like “sit down”, “clap clap”, “ma-mam time”, “bath time” and he’d walk to the toilet, learned to stack (one) block(s) when we say “block block”, climbed up sofa, understand when I say “sit down please wear shoes” by the door, “read book” and he’ll bring a book over, “nak” and he’ll pass whatever is in his hands and most importantly learn to self-entertain. When we are outside having family meals, I will then bring some small toys and his food along so he can eat with us at the table or if his attention span is lacking/bored then Aiman and I will take turns to eat whilst the other takes Yusuf out for a walk. Honestly, we actually do see the difference! But of course, we still sneak in that phone sometimes coz need to reply that whatsapp now now (we are such a now-now generation) 😛

We’ll see how long this zero screen time will last! So far so good! And again, I’m writing this as just my own experience, in no way saying my way is the (only) right way. You can always get more clarity if you speak to professionals or your Doctors 🤗

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