Curbing kids' use of gadgets

Curbing kids' use of gadgets
EpiCentre CEO Jimmy Fong with his wife Brenda and their seven-year-old twin daughters, Ashley and Amerie.

Increasingly, parents are aware of the dangers tech gadgets pose to young children and struggle daily over their little ones' access to gizmos, including tablets, smartphones, computers and television.

So when The New York Times ran an article last week proclaiming "Steve Jobs was a low-tech parent", which was picked up by other media including The Straits Times, the story struck a chord.

The late Apple boss had admitted: "We limit how much technology our kids use at home."

There are no official guidelines in Singapore on the use of tech devices by children, but the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting screen time to no more than two hours a day for school-age children and teenagers, and to discourage it altogether for children younger than two.

Technology addiction can affect a child's sleep and interfere with his eating habits, news reports have said.

In April this year, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers in Britain warned that a rising number of nursery-age children can "swipe a screen" but they lack the motor skills needed to play with building blocks because of an "addiction" to tablets and smartphones.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has said that studies have shown that excessive media use can lead to attention problems, school difficulties, sleep and eating disorders and obesity.

It could be as much about balance and priorities as a question of the amount of time spent on gadgets.

Asked by parents to recommend time limits, Mr Poh Yeang Cherng, director and principal consultant for Kingmaker Consultancy, which deals with youth and technology, says: "It is better to focus on the ability of the child to create play."

If this is displaced by excessive gadget use, "it tunes them towards an environment of getting entertained all the time", he says.

Like Jobs, technology firm bigwigs SundayLife! spoke to also regulate their children's gadget use - except Mr Sherman Tan, chairman of gaming firm Asiasoft Online.

Apart from banning telephones at dinner, he says he has never placed any particular restrictions on gadget use for his three sons, now aged 27, 24 and 18.

"You cannot be too strict," he says. "I doubt Steve Jobs could control his children. You cannot tie your children's hands, they might go to their friends' homes to play games."

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