Off late I have started thinking of myself as a human calculator. And this has nothing to do with watching Shakuntala Devi online! In fact, I have the least idea of what the cube root of even 10 might be, but I do calculate with precision the exact minutes and hours that my son spends in front of the screen. And mind you, this number varies and fluctuates more than the current news feed on the drug scam in BTown!
There is nothing much the poor school authorities can do in such times. With the corona scare, schools and learning has shifted to the virtual and online medium. And this is perhaps how our new normal might remain for a while. However, I am also sure our kids were always attuned to mobiles, laptops, and smart TVs. This was much before they were left with no option but to also educate themselves on gadgets. And add to that outdoors are strictly off-limits too at the moment.
So yes, our children are glued to the screen during school hours. They are glued after school hours because some of them are into online extracurricular classes or on video calls with their friends and family. They are glued to the tablets and phones because of course, they need some form of entertainment! And that leaves us, parents, fighting numbers in our heads. I am desperately counting and adding up the minutes to make sure that the final number remains a respectable cube of at least not less than a two-digit number. But sadly, it translates into a string of digits that equal the number of minutes my child spends in front of a screen.
Now let’s not get started with the ‘when I was young’ narrative here. Let’s admit it that our kids are growing up in a technology and gadget driven world. Yes, we can limit their screen time, and most definitely should. But since the entire world seems to be boxed in for the last six months, there is nothing much our children can do either.
And so the next thing my human motherly mind started calculating was ways to ensure that eyesight, posture, and basic physical and mental fitness of my child remained healthy. So here I share with you some basic and simple exercises and tips that can help children alleviate the stress and ill-effects of too much screen time.
- Blink and shut – The biggest problem while watching something on the screen with full attention is that we don’t blink much. This can lead to tired and dry eyes, causing itchiness. This is why you need to remind the child to blink while watching the screen. It also helps to ask the child to shut the eyes tightly for a few seconds often. Or sit in a meditative pose with the eyes shut.
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- Eyeball rotation – One of the best eye exercises is to rotate the eyeballs in a circular motion. There are many ways to do this. Either the child can just rotate the eyeballs on their own or focus on a moving object. For example, ask the child to extend his hand and prop up his thumb. Now he must set his eyes focused on his thumb and slowly move his hand in a circular motion. Similarly, he can also bring forward the thumb very close to his nose and then extend it out back again. All of this while the eyes are focused on the thumb.
- Palm massage – A soothing eye exercise, this one your kid will surely enjoy. Ask the child to rub his palms against each other and then place them gently on each eye. The warmth from the palm helps to relax the eye muscles.
Besides the eyes, the posture of the child also takes a toll while attending online classes. They either slouch on the table or bend forwards towards the gadget. When they are using the screen for other activities they usually just sleep or lie down in disfigured positions. Here are some exercises that can help keep their back, shoulders and neck healthy.
- Backstretch – Ask the child to raise both hands upwards and stretch. They can also interlock the fingers above the head. Remain in this position for a while and slowly move sideways from left to right. This exercise can be done both while sitting or standing.
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- Planks, crawls, and asans – For a full-body exercise ask your child to perform the plank. Let him hold the position for as long as he can. During breaks, it’s a good idea to make the child crawl too. The idea is just to get the knees and back in action and movement because of a prolonged sitting posture.
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- Neck and shoulder rotate – Let the child gently rotate his neck a full 360 degree. Similarly, fold the hands along the elbow sideways and grab the shoulders. Rotate the folded hands both clockwise and anti-clockwise for a few seconds.
Check out this detailed video for eye and posture exercises for your child.
As a guardian or parent it is necessary to take care of a few basic surroundings and settings.
- Increase the brightness on the screen the child is using.
- Make sure the device is at the eye level of the child. Whether the child is sitting on a chair or squatting on the ground, make sure the device is high enough and meets the eye easily.
- Have adequate lighting inside the room. Open the windows and allow the natural light to enter the study room.
- For a better posture ask the child to sit on a pillow.
- Make sure that the child takes regular breaks between classes or screen time. Regular movement and flexing of muscles is important.
- To distract them away from unnecessary screen time, play with them, involve them in various household activities etc. Do not use the phone as a tool for the child to not disturb you.
- Inculcate the habit of reading. Introduce your child to the world of tales and magic through books. You can buy some wonderful kid books from Your Bookbeat an online bookstore.
- Try and give the child a wholesome diet. Include carrots, apples and other vegetables for better visual health. Keep the child hydrated and nourished to avoid lethargy and slackness.
It takes a little common sense to know that too much of anything can be harmful. Our children are affected by the pandemic in more than one way. Besides the fear of the virus itself, there are various related issues that have a bearing on especially children and teenagers. Social distancing, high hygienic standards, being away from friends and peers, as well as, not having the luxury of free outdoor play will affect the overall development of the child.
But to be hopeful, these challenging times have helped the kids become responsible and aware of their surroundings. They have matured and adjusted well to the best of their abilities. However, it is also our responsibility to ensure that their health and mental well being isn’t neglected in the process.