It’s that time of the year again when schools are closed for the summer vacation and children have plenty of spare time (and energy!) on hand. Summer is all about playing outdoors, learning new skills, exploring new places and relishing juicy mangoes and ice-pops, besides catching up with friends and family. But Indian parents are also concerned that the downtime may cause their kids to become glue-eyed to screens—laptops, mobile screens, handheld devices, tablets and video game consoles.

A survey of over 750 parents by Kantar for Amazon India reveals that 85% respondents are worried about kids spending excessive screen time during the break and 82% are concerned about how they will keep their kids engaged this summer. 96% of parents are searching for screen-free ideas to keep their kids engaged with learning and fun activities. The survey was conducted among parents with young kids (3 - 8 years) across 10 metro and non-metro cities.

Coupling learning with fun

The survey reveals some of the other concerns that parents have, namely ‘help kids learn while having fun’ (41%), ‘keep pace with their curiosity to learn new things’ (37%), and ‘manage boredom amongst kids in creative ways’ (30%). More than 90% of parents surveyed believe kids become less active when spending more time on screen devices. A majority of respondents felt that ideal screen time should be less than 2 hours daily even as 69% confirmed that over 3 hours per day is standard among their kids.

Limit what you cannot avoid

Priya Sachan, a Bengaluru-based mother and blogger at ShishuWorld, with daughter
Priya Sachan, a mother and blogger, believes that reading and reducing screen time instills creativity and improves imagination

Priya Sachan, a Bengaluru-based mother and blogger at ShishuWorld, opines that one cannot fully avoid children’s screen time but rather focus on limiting it. “I advocate reading and reducing screen time as much as possible. This will make children more creative and imaginative. They will also figure out ways to keep themselves engaged,” she says.

Ekta Chawla, a Chennai-based mother of two and founder of parenting community
Ekta Chawla, a mother and founder of parenting community ConfusedParent, advocates reading and physical learning

Ekta Chawla, a Chennai-based mother of two and founder of parenting community ConfusedParent, is a big advocate of reading books and physical learning. Her children are allowed a maximum daily screen time of one hour. She enrolls her daughter in a summer camp during every summer vacation. “When my daughter was young, we read a lot of books to her. Today, she is just a few months over seven years and loves to read. She owns more than 200 books,” says Chawla.  

The skills in high demand

To help kids make the most of their summer vacation, parents want them to pick up skills such as English speaking (50%); good morals and social manners (45%); performing arts like dancing, singing and playing musical instruments (36%); arts and crafts (32%); and physical & outdoor activities (32%). 66% of respondents showed interest in buying a voice-controlled smart speaker that can nurture skills like curiosity, concentration, and improve communication.

How Alexa smart speakers can help

A subset of the survey participants were users of Alexa smart speakers. More than 95% have indicated that Alexa has become a true companion to their kid and helped in reducing screen time.

Agrees Sachan, whose daughter has been allowed to use Amazon Echo in her room. “I have often heard my daughter ‘summon’ Alexa to either solve riddles or play some interactive game, like ‘Akinator’. This works for us, though it may not work for others,” she adds.

“Alexa, why is the sky blue?”

With numerous interactive games, music, trivia, and educational features, Alexa helps keep kids engaged, improve communication skills, and satiate their curiosity to learn new things. Some of the popular requests to Alexa by parents are “Alexa, what is the spelling of dinosaurs”, “Alexa, why is the sky blue?”, “Alexa, open Wild Planet”, “Alexa, tell me a bedtime story”, and more.

 “Parents with young kids have been ardent users of Alexa. From nursery rhymes, interactive games, stories of Akbar and Birbal, to questions about history, science, general knowledge, and definitions of words - Alexa is a great resource of fun and learning. No surprises when we see kids’ songs like Twinkle Twinkle, Chandaniya, and Baby Shark rule the list of top five most requested music to Alexa”, says Parag Gupta, Director and Country Manager for Amazon Devices India.