As Singapore develops into a smart nation, it is perhaps inevitable that our children become increasingly connected to online media, making it challenging for us to monitor them all the time (Planning needed to develop healthy habits in children, by Dr Rebecca Chan, Aug 2; E-learning makes control of child's Internet access difficult, by Madam Lee Hui Ling, Aug 3; and Curbing kids' use of e-devices an increasingly uphill task, by Ms Lee Swee Mei, Aug 6).
Taking a step back, we might find that beyond setting boundaries, it is the parent-child relationship that remains foundational to this conversation on screen time.
By nurturing a closer relationship with our children in everyday life, we can raise them to be disciplined and discerning users of online media.
When we are sincere about sharing our children's online activities without judgment and criticism, they will reciprocate and want to know what we think.
In ScreenEd, Focus on the Family Singapore's workshop on media usage, we first encourage parents and children to share and understand each other's perspectives on online media.
This enables two-way communication, where parents can naturally teach principles of discipline and discernment to their children, instead of being perceived as enforcing rules and boundaries without reason.
Moreover, enjoying everyday conversations builds love and trust between parents and children, making it easier for parents to later address inappropriate content and behaviour where necessary.
Our children learn to recognise that we speak to them about rules and boundaries out of wholehearted concern and a hope to protect them, instead of a desire to punish.
The discussion on managing screen time ultimately presents an old issue under a new guise.
Before smartphones and online media became widely accessible, parents and experts were concerned about the excessive use of television and inappropriate programmes.
Likewise, the importance of a strong parent-child relationship remains unchanged.
It is the foundation for us to teach our children wisdom and independence in making life choices.
Cheryl Ng (Ms)
Focus on the Family Singapore