Our children are hooked 80% through Youtube or Netflix for their daily doze of mindless consumption of screen time.
Cartoon and educational platforms not only earn millions of dollars through the viewership but also earn millions through toy companies that are lining up to sell their products through these platforms. A simple example would be the craze of “surprise eggs” or any cartoon character toys like paw patrol, Pocoyo, Peppa pig.
I started handing over my mobile to my son at the age of 1 year and about the time he was two or two n half I started hearing from him – “mumma” I want to play with Pocoyo’s toy set or I only want “surprise egg”. Initially as a mother obsessing with providing the best to my child I jumped and took him to the toy stores or shopped online to keep him and my ego satisfied. This obsession of giving the best to our child starts the future based parenting that I have spoken in my previous video. The treadmill parent. Watch the video to understand our own blind spot when we constantly keep thinking about the future of children instead of the present moment.
But over the next one year I started noticing that his ability to enjoy these toys was very less. Sometimes he would roll over for a paw patrol toy for days or weeks and as soon as I bought it he would be done with it in 2 or 3 days and would again come back to me for his next wish list.
I was amazed by his awareness and specific choice and thought to oversee what is he watching? I realized that the cartoons he watched were barely 7 or 8 mins but the ad of the same cartoon character as a toy being played by a child and his parent or anchor would be as long as 20 or 30 mins!
This made me realize what a strategized partnership it is between the gadget and toy industry! How they do it is simple – Story telling.
It makes very little sense for any child to just buy a toy from the shop. But if the stories told about that toy are well crafted and executed and marketed on large scale – then the child or parent begins to believe that it is better and worth the purchase. The child starts craving the toy and we as parents feel guilty of not being able to provide the best for our child.
All this is not to say that we should never buy a toy that our child wants out of a character cartoon but the key is to develop an early understanding on the following:
- Notice your own Buying Patterns – The temptation to buy stuff in our children reflects our own buying patterns. Children as small as one start observing our actions when we go out and pick stuff relentlessly and stuff our own wardrobes and homes. They witness more than we can imagine.
- Take active measure of explaining them how harmful and toxic each toy is to the planet even if it is “re-usable plastic” or wooden toy! How much packaging waste is first created and then wasted to sell one small tiny character.
- Keep repeating the message of the amount of pollution and waste created to your own self and your child over years not just once or twice. As anything which has to become a habit has to be repeated in our own self and our children.
- Reduce their screen time to a maximum of 45 mins a day. It’s dangerous to look around and find that small children own ipads / tablets / smartphones. If you as a parent feel that you really have to show your child some screen then limit it to television. Especially between the age of 3-8 years.
- Reduce your own engagement of gadgets and screen time by spending time on your hobbies, reading, physically doing things or just relaxing and lying down. Have a specific slot to view gadgets in the presence of your children.
Global warming is real and is happening at a very fast rate.
Children need to be educated about this instead of being taught ABC…and 1,2,3… and colors or on educational cartoons at homes and schools. They need to experience life in it’s totality not virtually.
I would love to hear your views and ideas of how can we as parents tackle ads being bombarded on small children. What are your challenges when you go out to shops or at home when your child demands more screen time or toys?
Please leave your comments below and I would love to respond to them.
A crazy n happy parent