Making less room for screens

Mai Samih , Tuesday 16 Nov 2021

One new Egyptian project is aiming to rid young children of their Internet addiction by substituting more creative activities

Making less room for screens
Making less room for screens

Doozie Kid, a new Egyptian project, is an adventure programme for children aged seven to 12 years old that is designed to rid them of the habit of using the Internet excessively and guiding them back to more creative activities, including becoming a “kidpreneur”. 

It is a course that aims to give children back their lives away from their screens, something that many parents may also wish for nowadays. It aims at mixing leisure with scientific tools to help children deal with possible Internet addiction. 

Many parents today worry about the sometimes excessive screen time their children may spend on social media platforms on the Internet, something that may also make them more vulnerable to cyber bullying and can have a negative impact on both their mental and physical health. 

In January 2021, the number of social media users in Egypt was estimated at 59.19 million, according to a digital data report. The majority of users are adolescents and children, and Doozie Kid aims to reverse the possible effects of too much Internet exposure on children.

Rania Samir, the founder of Doozie Kid, commented that the project “all started in 2020, when as a life coach I would see that some parents would allow their young children to use the Internet excessively on the grounds that it was ‘keeping them busy.’ After my own son was born in 2019, I decided I wanted to raise him as a screen-free person,” she said.

Children aged up to two years old should have no screen time at all, and those aged from two to 14 should only use it for half an hour per day, something which is not the case in Egypt. “I had a hard time sticking to my decision to allow my son only a little screen time when the Covid-19 lockdown started. He was nine months old at the time, and he would start to move around and become bored, so I had to engage him in some type of useful activity instead of simply putting him in front of a screen,” Samir said.

She added that it was from these beginnings that she decided to make her decision into a larger project. “I was a creative experiences and event designer for various companies, and I decided to mix my experience as a life coach with my desire to help my child and other people’s children to have less screen time,” she said.

“I think that too much screen time can kill childhood. I like experimental learning 

(learning through adventures) and designing as an educational tool, so I decided to blend this together with the idea of a course designed for children to help them overcome the urge to have a lot of screen time by using creative techniques. This is where the idea of Doozie Kid came from,” she added, mentioning that the course was launched in the summer of 2021.

“I thought that to be able to build a new habit you need first to get rid of the old one. So, I thought of the idea of replacing the habit of too much Internet by a new habit like teaching children how to become entrepreneurs through adventures, which is also the main aim of the project. Becoming a ‘kidpreneur’, which is what the project encourages, is not just about owning your own business, but is also about acquiring the types of skills that can help you in future jobs as well,” she said.  

“Such skills can help to build a child’s character and boost his self-confidence and make him persistent and encourage him to apply creative thinking and to express himself. He also learns leadership and management skills as well as money management during the programme,” she added.

 

KIDPRENEURS: “The Doozie Kid programme consists of 12 sessions over a period of six weeks,” Samir explained. “A child attends six sessions personally and six virtually, and the programme is based on three pillars, including character building which includes all types of the creative-thinking skills needed to be an entrepreneur.”

 “The second pillar is entrepreneurship, in which children learn what business means, how to create an idea for a project, how to calculate costs, how to determine target customers and how to market products. They also learn how to solve problems in a creative way and to make their business a ‘hot spot business.’” 

“The third pillar is adventure,” Samir added. For instance, one of her courses is called “The Lost Empire Adventure” and helps children by narrating a story with a problem to be solved in each session. Everything is drawn on a map so they see where they are in the adventure, and in this way children get to explore their interests and talents, Samir said.

They build their projects based on their interests and their dominant methods of thinking. “We analyse their characters and through various activities they are able to discover their talents,” Samir said of the children enrolled in the programme. Such activities can include cooking, dancing, acting, speech training and painting, among others. 

By the end of the programme, each child will have his own project or start-up, and as a condition for graduation he must have sold at least three products to become recognised as a kidpreneur. “Our graduation ceremony is an exclusive kidpreneur event at which parents attend and each child explains their start-up ideas. A Doozie Kid souq (market) is featured in the event in which each child has a place to sell his products,” Samir said. 

A main focus should be to solve problems of relationships, health or money in a creative way, she added. “I am not asking children to completely stop using the Internet, but I am asking them to use it creatively,” she said. The children are allowed to use the Internet for research related to their projects, for example. 

The main rules are not to use the Internet within programme sessions and to respect each other’s ideas and differences. Children should also be punctual in attending and doing their assignments. 

At first, Samir had concerns about the ability of her little students to start projects. But she trusted her teaching of them through activities and adventures, and once the children had started to get the gist of things she became reassured. Through the formula of “Explore, Create and Express” (ECE), the children were able to solve their problems.

“The children first explore themselves, their talents, strengths and passions as well as life in general. Then comes the creation of their own starter to reach the last ‘E’ [in ECE] to uniquely express themselves. They learn that each person is different and has certain strengths and could create something with this to benefit the community he lives in,” she explained. 

Among the practical examples of the ideas her students came up with is that of one little girl, Roofy, who had the idea of healthy cupcakes and desserts to help her diabetic friend eat because she was upset that her friend was unable to eat dessert like she did. Roofy had a passion for cooking, and she used her skill for problem-solving. She also made cakes for others who wanted to live a healthy lifestyle. 

Another idea was that of Zeyad, who came up with the idea of lemonade coloured using natural food colours to be sold to people on the beach. A third one was Adam’s idea of making hand-drawn puzzles out of images of cities. 

“My daughter Roofy now has her own healthy dessert brand. She started her idea because she had a diabetic friend at school and wanted her to be able to eat dessert with her. She was encouraged and helped by Doozie Kid and is now aware of the concept of healthy food. She is also happy to use the Internet to search for healthy alternatives to the ingredients she uses to make her own healthy cakes. All this has hugely boosted her self-confidence,” said Roofy’s mother, who added that Doozie Kid could do more to let former Doozies be in touch with others to give them more support. 

“Because former Doozies did not want the programme to end, we created an online community for them. They are also allowed to take part in the Doozie Kid souq,” Samir said. “I now intend to organise more sessions for teenagers and to create other adventures that can help to solve problems between children to build more kidpreneurial mindsets,” she concluded.


Limiting screen time

Founder of Doozie Kid Rania Samir gives parents some tips to discourage excessive screen time among their children: 

- Children tend to imitate their parents, so it is useless to ask them to stop looking at their phones when their parents can’t stop doing so themselves.

- Parents should  replace the habit of using the Internet with other habits like reading for their children. They should aim to spend more quality time with their children and to put all phones out of reach.  

- Parents can make “deals” with their children so that they can manage their screen time while decreasing it gradually.

- Parents should be careful about promising Internet use as an incentive for their children. They should not tell them to study to be allowed an extra hour of Internet, for example.


*A version of this article appears in print in the 18 November, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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