How often do we tempt our children to finish a plate of greens or a glass of milk in return for a few extra minutes on the iPad? There lies the starting point of this debate
A six-year-old boy in the neighbourhood mentioned he puts his baby brother to sleep each night. As you can imagine, my heart melted. It was an aww moment. I remarked on
the lovely gesture, “What an awesome big brother you are.” He invited me over to meet the little one, and I agreed. I watched him put a blanket on the infant and then switch on a tiny gadget, a child-like version of Google Home. “Let’s go,” he said. The gadget, I learnt later, is called a Baby Shusher, which is available for a few hundred dirhams on online shopping portals. It is doctor tested and approved, and it soothes the baby with the rhythmic shush sound. This is how the boy performs the loving act.
On reaching home, I shared the incident with my partner and remarked I felt fortunate to have grown up in times when there was no technology. Mum and Dad, and maybe my elder sister, too, sang lullabies to put me to sleep. Regardless of whether they were in tune or not, I am certain I slept well.
Granny or sometimes aunts in the neighbourhood watched over me when my parents attended to chores. I wasn’t watched by a baby monitor. No, parents don’t need more guilt, so am not here to pass remarks on your parenting rules and ways. I do believe that technology exists for our convenience and is around to ensure that our children are looked after well. It’s keeping them safe, yes, mostly.
Am I against the tech-friendly way of raising kids? No, I am not. But, am I in favour? I am yet to figure that out. How often do we tempt our children to finish a plate of greens or a glass of milk in return for a few extra minutes on the iPad? There lies the starting point of this debate. However, what happens when children unconsciously begin to depend more on gadgets than their parents? Or when they begin to wonder and question less? That’s the fear and the question of the hour.
Ask a young one to show you his/her latest artwork and you’ll be asked to follow an Instagram account to keep track. Likewise, ask them what’s the answer to 32 X 12, and they’ll reach out to the calculator app on the phone. Quiz them to identify a song that’s being played on the radio and they’ll Shazam it for you. Ask them to switch on the television and they’ll get Alexa to assist. Yes, gone are the days of practising mental math or scratching your head to recall the forgotten, and beyond. As for remembering the digits that make a phone number of a loved one — long gone are the days.
Take out the time to scroll through the downloaded apps on a youngster’s smartphone and you’ll be surprised. Begin to count. Exclude the usual and must-haves like WhatsApp, YouTube, Snapchat, Kik, Zomato, et al. — you get the drift, right? Just make note of the ones that are the extras — for instance, the one that reminds them to have a glass of water or even the one that keeps track of the screen time. Their homework lies in a square box on the desktop and the class Hangout group gathers within the pixels and bytes, too. What’s worse even pre-schoolers stay occupied tapping on the apps that their parents have installed to meet their (children) educational and entertainment needs. Often, you’ll come across a parent exuding pride on how a three-year-old easily manoeuvres to click on the alphabet flashcards tile on the phone. Kudos to that! Or maybe not.
The good news is that this is a fixable situation. Give your children a chance to make notes, and use the memory cells. Run an experiment. Remove the Google reminder for Grandpa’s retirement day from your child’s phone. Award him/ her five points for remembering it nevertheless. Ask the child to hand draw a greeting card for someone. Five points more for not finding rescue in a virtual drawing programme. And keep going...over-dependence, in the end, is a vicious circle!