Got your laptop in front of you, your phone on your right, and an extra tablet on your left. Great! Now are they all placed properly to protect your eyes and your physical health?

What’s your environment like?

Most of us spend an average of 8 hours a day at work – that’s a really long time – and we’ve each probably developed a range of working habits that work well for us. When we sit at the same desk every day for an extended period of time staring at a screen however, we may experience a few, if not all of these:

Our eyes feel tired and dry after a whole day of staring at the screen.

Our heads hurt after 8-hours of facing the glare of the screen.

Our upper backs may feel sore after slouching for a whole day.

Our lower backs may feel an ache after sitting down for hours upon hours.

So we attend massages, we stretch, do some yoga, but again and again the same aches and pains keep coming back. Instead of finding symptomatic relief for every ache or discomfort we feel, why not tackle the source of the problem – our workspace ergonomics.

According to the dictionary, ergonomics is ‘the study of people’s efficiency in their working environment’. Ask yourself: what does your physical environment look like when you sit down for a day of work? Look at where your laptop is placed and how it’s placed, notice the way you sit, and how you look at the screen all day. These little things can hinder your vision and physical health. However, small little changes to your workstation can help address your health concerns and reduce the risk of any health conditions.

Getting down to re-organising.

When your eyes feel tired and dry, or if your head hurts, or when your back begins to ache, it may be due to the position of your laptop and other digital devices at your work desk. It’s important to practice effective workplace ergonomics to prevent any physical health issues from surfacing:

1. Use a laptop stand or a phone stand, or both!

A laptop stand is one of the most ingenious inventions. All you have to do is set it up and prop your laptop on it. The reason why it’s so great is because it helps to prevent your neck from tilting too far down to see the screen.

The elevation from the laptop stand helps keep your gaze at eye length and stops you from slouching towards your laptop or leaning too near it. Not only does this help to alleviate the pressure on your shoulders and upper back, it also helps you maintain healthy eye sight as it keeps you from leaning too far forward toward the screen.

The same thing goes for your phones. If you have a tendency to bend forward to check out new notifications that ping on your phone, invest in a phone stand to help you look at them at a leveled height.

2. Adjust your laptop position away from the glare

If you sit by the window in your office, you’re definitely no stranger to the sun. So when the sun strikes your laptop, you’re met with the most intense glare your eyes have ever seen. This can contribute to eye strain in the office and reduce your productivity.

One of the ways around this is to purchase an anti-glare filter for your laptop, depending on the size of your laptop screen. You could also consider angling your laptop away from the sun so that it doesn’t hit your laptop and cause your eyes discomfort.

3. Get up and move

Sitting is the new smoking. While it’s important to continue being productive at work, sitting all day can be detrimental to your spinal health. Staring at a screen all day is also damaging for your eye health as prolonged screen time is an associated risk factor of myopia.

If you notice you’ve been sitting at your desk staring at your screens for more than an hour, get up and take a walk to the pantry. Stare out the office windows. Go to the bathroom. Just get moving when you can while you’re in the office to ease off the tension around your eyes and your body.

We work, we work, and we rest.

We spend a lot of time at our work spaces and that’s normal and okay. What’s not okay is not caring about how those works paces are set up. Even while we’re working we ought to take care of our visual and physical health too. If this article has inspired you to rearrange your work station and your everyday work habits, feel free to share this article using the buttons below!

As we begin to grapple with the global pandemic that is COVID-19, stay-home notices and school closures have increasingly become the norm.

It’s important we take note of our children’s screen time as we continuously adapt to the new changes that take place. While screen time can serve as an easy solution to past the time, it shouldn’t be the only solution. Parents should continue to monitor their children’s screen time amidst the evolving situation.

As the world assimilates to the new normal – work-from-home mandates, school closures and quarantines – parents worldwide are confronted with the reality of spending 24 hours a day with their new co-worker and the accompanying question:

“How do I occupy my child’s time?”

A sizeable increase in screen time

This transition spells a significant change in many parents’ lives. Not only do they have to balance work and their household chores, they have to take care of their kids and worry about how to occupy them on top of it all. And for many parents, grappling with this sudden change can be all too overwhelming.

As such, it comes as no surprise that many are turning to mobile devices for their wealth of entertaining and educational resources as a quick fix to occupy their little ones’ time. Parents themselves may find that they are spending more time behind the screen for work and leisure purposes. 

In fact, a preliminary analysis from the Plano Time Machine cohort found that the average daily screen time of Singaporean adults has increased from 6.6 hours before the pandemic to 7.8 hours in only a few weeks during this period!

The collateral damage

While staying safe and protecting ourselves and our little ones in these trying times should be our primary concern, the current circumstances necessitate the consideration of the adverse secondary effects of the pandemic.

More time at home means a larger proportion of your day cooped up at home with your screens for company, more near-work (on mobile devices) and much less time spent on outdoor activities.

This can put you and your child through a world of hurt in the long run. Consequences of too much screen time include digital eye strain, musculoskeletal problems like neck, shoulder and hand pain, and myopia. As we spend more time on our devices, the risk of experiencing these adverse effects increases.

What can we do to shield ourselves from these health risks?

Under the current circumstances, all these health impacts on top of the pandemic can seem rather disconcerting. However, there are many actionable measures you can put into practice right now to protect yourself and your family.

1. Regular breaks from the screen and adequate face-to-screen distance is key

Ensure adequate face-to-screen distance when you or your child uses devices i.e. at least 60cm of distance between the face and computer screens and 30cm of distance when using smart devices like phones or tablets. Take regular breaks between periods of screen exposure i.e. take at least a 15-minute break after 2 hours of device use. The plano application’s face-to-screen distance tracker and eye break prompts can help you with this by keeping an eye on your child’s device use behaviour.

2. At-home alternatives to outdoor activities and screen time

Your home may feel deceptively void of fun activities to do with your little ones and as such, it is natural to feel at a loss these days when it comes to occupying their time. Creating a routine for your child is a useful way to ensure that their time is used productively and with purpose. This routine should include blocks of screen-free play time. If independent play is a struggle for your little one, set aside some time to engage in play with him/her. This can include storytelling, having a workout session together and even doing household chores together! 

Whatever you choose to do with your child, remember to use these moments as golden opportunities to spend some quality bonding time with your loved ones.  Now is the chance to get creative with your child, get to know one another, unleash your inner child and have a whole lot of fun while you’re at it. 

At the end of the day, we all want the best for our children. And while Netflix Nanny is a tempting alternative especially considering our professional obligations and domestic duties, let’s not forget to make the most of every precious moment with our little ones during these uncertain times.

When it comes to discipline, every parent has a different style. But what if your ‘style’ just isn’t working out for you?

Parenthood is never easy. It is a journey of trial and error filled with meltdowns, tantrums, timeouts and lessons.

When it comes to disciplining your little one, no day is like the last. Just when you think you are making progress, your child has their biggest outburst ever. And every time this happens, you might defeatedly wonder, “Why is this always happening? What am I doing wrong?”

The good news is, there are simple solutions to your problems. The first step is to identify your mistakes.

Here are some of the common mistakes you might be making and how to fix them once and for all.

1. Not a ‘one-size-fits-all’

 What is more important then being consistent in how you discipline your child? – Knowing when to enforce the rules and when to take it easy on them.

Sure, you may have developed a disciplinary system that you plan to follow strictly so that the rules and regulations you enforce is taken seriously by your child. While having a clear and comprehensive plan is key, it is our responsibility as parents take note of their behavioural cues and adjust to the situation.

For instance, when your child is misbehaving, ask yourself why he/she is doing so. Often, tantrums act as a signal to let you know that your little one is tired, hungry or feeling uncomfortable in any way. And when you fail to take into consideration their mood and the circumstances and simply enforce mete out the disciplinary action, well that’s when tempers really flare.

The fix: It is vital to constantly remind yourself to take a breath and make a careful judgement of the situation. Enforcing discipline should be on a case-by-case basis and not a one-size-fits-all.

2. When discipline turns into punishment

Imagine this: After spending a couple of long hours cooking for your family and laying out the meal, your little one says that he/she does not like the food and does not want to eat dinner. According to the rules you have implemented, he/she is not allowed to leave the table without finishing dinner. But they simply will not touch a morsel! Do you (A) force him/her to sit down all night as punishment or (B) let them leave without eating?

If you picked (B), you answered right! As parents, situations like these can be really frustrating. Sometimes, you may even find yourself motivated by your feelings of anger to mete out punishments that extend beyond your little one’s ‘crime.’

The fix: In these instances, it is so important to remember the difference between punishment and discipline. The whole aim of disciplining is to serve to teach your child how to be more responsible with their actions.  Instead of being reactive whenever your child misbehaves, take the first step of addressing your own feelings, calming yourself and your child down and communicating why his/her behaviour is not ok.

In the above scenario for instance, it is especially important to not force your child to eat their food by punishing them. In fact, research shows that using punishment as a means to get your child to eat can create a picky eater or even result in weight issues! So, what should you do instead?

As frustrating as it can be, simply clear their plate and tell them that you will prepare food for them if they are hungry at a later time. It is also important to explain to them why eating on time is important and why food wastage is never right.

3. Being a ‘negative’ role model

Children are our biggest copycats – from the way we walk to the way we talk, they model their behaviour after ours. Unfortunately, they internalise our ‘bad behaviour’ as well. And there’s nothing worse than hearing, “But mommy does it too!” when you are trying to get your child to stop misbehaving.

The fix: Remember this throughout your parenting journey: “Children are great imitators. So give them something great to imitate.” – Anonymous

Simply lead by example! Don’t want your child to use their phone during family time? Don’t whip out your phone yourself. Don’t want your child to use rude language or yell when they are frustrated with something? Always maintain your composure and remain calm in frustrating situations.

This, even the most successful parent can attest to, is easier said than done. When you do find yourself slipping up, make the conscious effort to vocalise to your child that you were wrong to act that manner. This will help him/her realise that everyone is held accountable for their negative actions and also gives you an opportunity to have a conversation with your child about how to address such situations.

It shouldn’t be a complicated process

At the end of the day, all we want is the best for our children. A good disciplinary system should not be a struggle to figure out or implement. All we have to do as parents is to listen to our instincts, be open to the non-verbal signals our children constantly give us and have open, honest conversations with them.

It is no cakewalk but finding the right system that works for you can make all the difference in your parenting journey and will lay the groundwork for developing your little one into an all-round wonderful human being!

Received a work-from-home mandate from your boss? Here’s how working parents like yourselves can simultaneously manage the kids while working from home.

Meet your newest coworkers: your children.

In the last couple of weeks, the world has experienced an unprecedented halt in many areas of our everyday lives. Social distancing measures have been put in place, some services have ceased operations, and some of us have been lucky enough to be able to work from home. Working from home is a brand-new ball game to some of us. Never have we had to attend to so many online meetings, we’ve got to be extra disciplined and focused, and for us parents, we’ve got our kids to look out for on top of everything else.

Working with our kids at home sounds like an absolute dream. Time spent with them is always time well-spent, and we wouldn’t trade it for anything else in the world.  So, implementing work-from-home mandates means more time with the children at home, right? Yes, true, but the challenge lies in balancing productivity at work, and keeping an eye on your child.

While you want to continue being as productive as you can be, you don’t want to neglect your child either. It’s normal to feel guilty when you’re little one is tugging at the hem of your pants for some playtime, but you’ve got no choice but to respond with a shush and a shake of the head. You don’t want to disappoint your child, but neither do you want to be unproductive when you’re supposed to be working.

Getting used to the new normal.

Working from home is now the new normal for us working adults. As we adapt to the new normal, we need to figure out ways to help our children adapt too:

1. Create a schedule for your little one

While you’re working your usual 9-5, albeit from home, get your little one busy from 9-5 too! It’s tempting to just hand them a tablet or a phone for them to play with, but we wouldn’t want to run the risk of contributing to excessive screen time in our children.

You could instead plan a little schedule for your child to follow. Assuming your child wakes up at around 8 in the morning, after breakfast you could get him/her to do some engaging activities – like painting or jigsaw puzzles. It could look something like this:

  • 9-11am: Painting time! You could assign them a few things to paint such as a fruit bowl, their favourite cartoon character, or even a self-portrait of themselves. Make the tasks as fun as possible!
  • 11am-12.30pm: Prep time for lunch. Involve your little one in some simple lunchtime cooking. Pasta, rice, or even just making a sandwich would make for a fun midday activity to enjoy with your child.
  • 12.30-2.30pm: It’s back to the laptop for you so you can use this time to give your little one a jigsaw puzzle to complete. But make sure the puzzle pieces together an interesting enough image for your child to want to complete it. Disney characters or superheroes are always a fail-proof option. 
  • 2.30-4pm: You’ve got that big afternoon meeting coming up with your boss so this would be a great time to put junior down for a nap! Napping provides some much-needed downtime and recuperation for children and is essential for physical and mental development during childhood.
  • 4-5pm: Ah the long-awaited last hour of work! During this time, you can consider giving your child some small chores to do around the house – you can start by asking him/her to arrange his/her stuffed toys according to colour/size. If your little one is a little older and past the age of 9, you can get him/her to start setting the table for dinner too!

2. Explain that you’re busy

Sometimes, words are all you need. It takes some time, but it’s well worth it. Gently explain to your child that you’ll be busy from 9am to 5pm and you’re not ignoring them on purpose. Explain to them what you really do at your job, in simple words of course. No “analysing profits” or “budget forecasting” lingo. Relate it back to your child too; just like how every child has to go to school and be a good student, you have responsibilities outside the home.

3. Leave work at work

Once you’re off work, you’re off work. With work-from-home measures in place, it’s far too easy to blur the lines between the hours. Once you’re done with your responsibilities for the day, refocus your attention on spending some quality time with your family.

Don’t give yourself the excuse that you need to check your e-mails “just in case”. No scrolling through LinkedIn either, or checking how that marketing campaign has been panning out on social media. Be present with your family once work has ended for you, and cherish the time you have with them.

Working from home is the new normal now and our children likely understand that too. It’s not every day they get to see both mommy and daddy at home all the time. Having responsibilities in and out of the home is challenging, but we are adaptable and we each can find that balance to work productively at home while taking care of our children. As the situation continues to evolve, let’s continue evolving and adapting as well.

Please remember to take steps to continuously protect yourselves and your loved ones. Wash your hands regularly with soap, avoid touching your face and eyes, and consult a doctor if you’re sick.

We’ve all got a phone, and they’re necessary tools to help us navigate, work, and connect! But are we using them a little too much in this day and age?

Gaze fixed on the screen.

How often do we remind ourselves to take a break every time we use our devices? Think about it – when one episode on Netflix leads to another; when 5 minutes on Instagram turn into 50 minutes; when 1 level of a game leads to another 10 levels. And that’s just entertainment.

In the areas of work and learning, sometimes it’s not enough for us to get through 1 email or 1 lecture. We’ve got to get through 100 different ones, or we’ve got to complete 10 different lectures for that upcoming test. In between those 50 minutes on Instagram, 100 different emails, or 10 different online lectures, do we make it a point to practice dashes of eye breaks?

Taking dashes of eye breaks is one of the important components of the Clear Vision Recipe including practicing scoops of good distance (placing your devices at least 30 metres away from your eye), spending heaps of time outdoors (remember to get 2 hours a day outdoors), and MyPower (for only you have the control to practice these good habits every day). It’s a great reminder for us all to take care of our eyes amidst this digital age. After all, we wouldn’t want to end up like the citizens of Machiville.

In the fifth book of The Plano Adventures series, Out of Order, the citizens of Machiville were glued to their devices all day. They couldn’t even lift their gaze beyond the screen to complete the simplest of everyday tasks such as finding directions, or even asking their friend a question in real life. This may be an exaggeration, but with our lives being increasingly governed by our devices, that scenario doesn’t seem too far away. In fact, a survey found that kids are spending at least 30 hours a week on their phones – that’s equal to 1500 hours a year! It’s important that we curb our reliance on our screens and maybe give ourselves a break from the screens too.

Fixing our screen time.

Our screens are permanent fixtures of our lives in the 21st Century, hence it’s critical to manage the time we spend on them before we get too dependent on our devices. Our children are especially vulnerable to developing an over dependence on their devices as their childhoods and schooling years now revolve around a tiny palm-sized device. Therefore, it’s necessary for us parents to also remind them of the Clear Vision Recipe and exercise good device habits every day to stifle their reliance on devices.

If your child is constantly turning to the screen for an episode of Paw Patrol to entertain him/herself, set device limits for the day. Let your child know that you’ll be limiting him/her to 2 episodes a day. Beyond that is off limits. As a substitute, you could encourage your child to try out new home activities like baking or gardening with parental supervision, of course. Developing a hobby or an interest from a young age can help your child to gain skills and it could be a stepping stone to unlocking your child’s passion.

The digital world we live in is an ever-changing one with new devices being introduced to the market every day. And as these devices begin to change with the world, we ought to adopt healthy device habits to safeguard our health – both physically and mentally – and not grow an addiction to them.

If you would like to purchase Out of Order or any of the other 4 books in The Plano Adventures book series, you may find them in Singapore at Kinokuniya, Times Bookstores, and at Popular. Alternatively, buy them online on Amazon or Book Depository

With a global pandemic on the rise, we are going to be spending more time than ever at home in the coming months. If you’re a parent, this means you’ll probably be spending a lot of this time keeping your kids entertained.  While it’s tempting to let them play on their devices all day, overuse of screens can negatively affect their eye health in the long-term. As a parent of two toddlers I know how hard it can be to keep your kids busy all day, so I’ve put together a list of some easy activities you can do with your kids at home that won’t involve screens and also won’t break the bank!

Why do they need to spend time off their smartphones?

While smartphones can be wonderfully useful tools to keep your kids entertained for hours on end- like most good things; they have some negative side-effects.

Our eyes are built to be able to see things near and far. But when we spend all day on our phones; focusing on things close to us, they are put under a lot of pressure and this causes them to stretch. This elongation causes light rays to focus on an area just in front of the retina (rather than on the retina itself), making objects far away appear blurry; a process that can lead to myopia or short-sightedness. While myopia doesn’t affect everyone, it is becoming more and more prevalent with the emergence of technology and smart devices. Worldwide, almost a quarter (23%) of us are short-sighted, while in Singapore it affects 80% of young adults (1).  

While there is a chance your kids may not develop myopia, they may still suffer from other side-effects of screen-use, such as Digital Eye Strain. Putting too much strain on your eyes can cause them to become itchy, dry and tired and can sometimes induce headaches. Kids can often get so involved in whichever game they are playing or movie they are watching to notice the painful side-effects, therefore it’s important to keep an eye on them.

Finally, overuse of smartphones can also impact your kids’ mental health. Social media and virtual gaming apps are designed to trigger the rewards centres in your brain. Getting a message or a “like” on a post can trigger the release of the feel-good hormone, dopamine. This can, over time, become highly addictive, especially with kids whose sense of self-control might not have developed yet. In extreme cases, smartphone addiction can induce symptoms of anxiety and depression as they become overly reliant on their smartphones for this dopamine kick.

After reading all of this, you may be tempted to take your kids’ smartphones away completely. However, in this ever-evolving world, they are going to be surrounded by technology at every stage of their lives, so it’s important to instil good behaviours in them while they are young. Instead of stopping them from using their screens, simply swap it for different, device-free activities. 

3 fun and easy device-free activities to do at home!

1. Arts and crafts

While arts and crafts can often involve buying a variety of different supplies, there are lots of activities that don’t involve a trip to an art supplies store. You can use old newspapers and magazines to do scrapbooking or to make papier-mâché sculptures. Extra sheets of paper can also be used to do origami- try these instructions on how to make a paper crane!

2. Board games

Board games like Monopoly or Trivial Pursuit are great because they involve the whole family and can be stretched out over a couple of days. Don’t have your own? No problem, you can DIY your own version using these templates.

3. Cooking

Pass on some of the domestic responsibilities to your kids and maybe even teach them a thing or two along the way! Start simple by getting them to find ingredients in the cupboards and mix them together, just think- one day they’ll be making meals on their own!

Rest assured that you’re not alone!

With lots to worry about right now, it’s important to view this not as a burden, but simply as an opportunity for your child to try new things. It’s also important to remember that you’re not alone! 

As a parent, I know how easy it is to get caught in a spiral of negative thinking during these trying times- we’ve all got a lot on our plates! But by focusing your attention on the things that you can do rather than what you can’t, can help you break out of this negative spiral. From one parent to another, I hope these suggestions help!

Parenting is by far the hardest job on earth. Mix that in with keeping up with smartphones in the digital age? You’re going to need parental control apps to help you with that.

The 21st Century parenting conundrum

The year is 2020 and as parents of children growing up in this generation, we’ve got a whole new conundrum our parents never had to face: the difficulty of managing our child’s screen time.

The 21st Century is basically synonymous with digital connectivity. Smart devices are here to stay and our children’s use of it is only going to increase exponentially. With schools rolling out plans to incorporate tablets into the curriculum, and entertainment easily found at the swipe of a finger, there’s more reason to own a smart device today. We parents are no different – we use our smart devices for work and for entertainment. It’s only natural for our children’s screen time to increase. Thus, it’s important we help to minimise that, but it’s a delicate balancing act.

On one hand, we don’t want to micro-manage our children; we want to trust them with their own devices. On the other, it’s impossible to shake off that funny feeling that they might be spending too much time on their devices. How often have we heard our friends complaining that their little ones have been spending way too much time on the screen? That nagging feeling may cause us to hover over our child’s shoulder far more often than what we’d like.

Enter: Your new digital assistant

Constantly hovering over your child’s shoulder isn’t the best feeling in the world. Your child won’t like it because he/she may feel like he/she’s being watched. And you wouldn’t like it either because you wouldn’t want to be viewed as a surveillance cop – truth be told, who would?

The solution to the problems of the digital age lies in the digital realm – It’s no Alexa, it’s no Siri, but it’s parental control apps. Countless parental control apps exist and all of them serve the same purpose – that is to help limit your little one’s screen time, and protect them from negative online influences.

The plano App is one such parental control app in particular that can help your child do just that with the following functions:

1. Device break reminders

The app runs in the background of your child’s phone and every 30 minutes, the plano app reminds your child to take a break from his/her phone. The breaks last up to 2 minutes at a time. These device break reminders serve a second purpose – they also help to prevent the progression of myopia. Constant smartphone use can place a lot of strain and stress on the eyes and this can inadvertently lead to myopia.

2. Block apps*

If you notice your child using a particular app excessively, you can use the plano app to take matters into your own hands. As a parental control app, the plano app allows you to use its settings to block apps on your child’s phone. So, if your little one can’t get his/her eyes off YouTube, you can use the plano App to block YouTube effectively.

3. Device time scheduling

Are there certain periods of time when you’d just wish your child would put down his/her phone? Maybe it’s during dinner time, maybe it’s during family game night. Whatever time it is, with parental control apps like plano, you can control and reduce your child’s screen time any time.

It’s the 21st Century, and with 21st Century problems come 21st Century solutions. With parental control apps, you don’t have to worry about constantly looking over your little one’s shoulder. You can trust the app to help teach your child the right smartphone habits to help them minimize their screen time.

*subject to your device’s technical capabilities.

In the past few weeks, the world has undergone a whirlwind of changes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Along with the spread of the pandemic is the sentiments of fear, uncertainty and panic sweeping nations worldwide. 

Parenting at the height of the crisis

Every time we turn on the television or open our social media applications, we are bombarded with information about the situation. As parents, sifting through the flurry of information for the facts can be a challenging and overwhelming ordeal.

Even worse, with fake news about the pandemic spreading like wildfire, we may even be guilty of harbouring certain misconceptions about the situation. 

Equipping yourself with all the right information

Gaining clarity about the situation is so important; it can make a world of difference in your parenting journey and in keeping your emotions at an even keel especially in these tumultuous times. Consequently, quelling your little ones’ fears, answering their questions about the pandemic and remaining confident in knowing all the right steps to take to protect your family no longer seems like such a tall order.

A good start to gaining clarity on the situation is to clear up some of your misconceptions about COVID-19. 

Myth 1:

Wearing a mask is sufficient in protecting you and your child against the disease.

False.

The virus is transmitted through direct contact with the respiratory droplets of an infected person. Hence, wearing masks do decrease the likelihood of the virus being passed to you or your child. However, they should not be considered an iron-clad guarantee.

According to the World Health Organisation, additional measures like avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth is crucial. This is because contaminated hands can transfer the virus to the eyes, nose and mouth and from there, the virus can enter the body! 

Remember to maintain good hygiene practices and teach your child how to do so. These include: washing hands frequently and thoroughly, covering the mouth and nose with a bent elbow or tissue when coughing and sneezing and seeking medical care early if you or your child has cold/flu-like symptoms.

Myth 2: 

There is very little we can do in the face of the pandemic.

False.

It is easy to feel downright helpless with the influx of news coverage on the spread of the virus, the increase in reported cases and death counts worldwide. However, this simply isn’t true – there is so much we can do! 

Do not underestimate the effectiveness of adhering to national health guidelines. Everything from following the recommendations against ‘panic buying’ to practicing social distancing goes a long way in helping to flatten the curve i.e. slow the rate of new cases. 

Myth 3:

The Chinese are to blame for COVID-19. 

False.

COVID-19 knows no geographical or social boundaries. While the virus originated from Wuhan, China, a person’s ethnicity, nationality or language is not a risk factor for the virus. Fear and panic breed xenophobia and social stigmatisation. It is now more important than ever for us to step in and level with our children about making incorrect assumptions like this. 

Talk to your child about how reactions to the pandemic in the news and social media can perpetuate harmful stereotypes and anti-Asian sentiments. This is a good opportunity for you to have open conversations about xenophobia and the importance of being compassionate in these trying times.

At the end of the day, all we want is to shield our little ones from the virus and help them feel safe and secure amidst all the confusion, stress and fear. Perpetuating myths like these will only serve to breed panic and uncertainty in our own homes. Tackling COVID-19  begins with fighting misinformation and educating ourselves and our little ones!

It’s robbing our children’s eyes of the clarity they used to have – our screens. And we parents need to stop it before it’s too late.

A dull look in our eyes.

In Trouble in Murktown, the citizens are covered in a fog that dispels all traces of clear vision. The citizens are glued to their phone screens and their eyes appear to be soulless. Driven by their constant pre-occupation with their screens, the citizens of Murktown lose clarity of the world around them.

For most of us today, our lives center around our phones. Ask anyone around you what 3 things they always have with them and 1 out of the 3 will definitely be a phone. Even for our children, growing up in the 21st Century basically necessitates the ownership of a phone – most teachers now use WhatsApp groups to disseminate reminders to their students, and some schools are even planning to use tablets as part of the school curriculum. Our children even use their devices to entertain themselves – games, videos, music, you know the whole lot. Compared to 3 years ago, screen time has definitely doubled.

What’s paying the price? Our children’s eyes.

There’s a reason why Zee wears glasses when his twin brother, Zed, does not – Zee is always using his Bottle-Bottle screen! Even when Professor Plano first met the boys, Zee was seen engrossed with his Bottle-Bottle screen.

Spending too much time staring at a tiny screen can cause our eyes to lengthen and lose flexibility in focusing. The eyes are too accustomed to viewing things at a near distance and loses its ability to focus on faraway objects. This is a process that causes nearsightedness (myopia) and explains why some people are unable to see things clearly if they’re far away.

Getting back that spark.

For every hour that we spend staring at the screen, it’s an hour lost to myopia. Our children are especially vulnerable to myopia; as digital natives growing up in a smartphone generation, it’s no surprise to see them spending hours upon hours on their phones. According to health experts, children between the ages of 8 to 18 are spending at least 7 hours a day staring at their screens.

7 hours a day for 7 days a week – that’s a total of 49 hours which is the equivalent of 2 days and a bit! Imagine that – spending 2 whole days staring at the screen with no breaks in between. Thankfully, not all hope is lost. Just like how Professor Plano, Zed, and Zee managed to thwart Lord Myopic’s evil plans to cover Murktown in an eternal fog, we can help lift the dull fog from our children’s eyes using the Clear Vision Recipe.

If your child is constantly using his/her phone for prolonged periods of time every day, it’s important to remind your little one of the 4 key ingredients in the recipe:

1. Scoops of good distance

Let your child know that it’s important to place their phones at a distance of at least 30 cm away from their eyes – that’s around one arm’s length.

2. Dashes of eye breaks

It’s important to give our eyes a rest! Remind your child to take a 2-minute eye break after every 30 minutes of screen time.

3. Heaps of time outdoors

Going outdoors has been proven to help improve one’s eye sight and protect your eyes from myopia. Bringing your little one out for 2 hours every day is a great way to safeguard their eyes from myopia.

4. Mypower

Last, but definitely not least, is my power. Your child has the power to practice all the ingredients in the Clear Vision Recipe and if he/she does it diligently every day, they’ll be right on track to gaining that spark in their eyes.

After the fog was dispelled from Murktown, the citizens looked up from their Bottle Bottle Screens to a whole new world and realised the beauty of the city around them. Don’t let your children miss out on the beauty the world has to offer outside their tiny palm-sized screens. Together, we parents can help them achieve their best vision possible and find that spark in their eyes once again for we will not let anyone or any phone dull their sparkle.

If you would like to purchase Trouble in Murktown, or any of the other 4 books in The Plano Adventures book series, you may find them in Singapore at Kinokuniya, Times Bookstores, and at Popular. Alternatively, buy them online on Amazon or Book Depository