One thing that I am always thankful for, is that I had a technology-free childhood. I was grown up in the era of landline phones, cable connections, posting letters and personal relationships – the real ones. The era when technology did not take over. The era when outings meant going to parks and picnics instead of malls. The era when people used to visit friends and relatives randomly on Sundays without informing them as they did not have the luxury of mobile phones. Yes, this modern amenity was a luxury then which has turned out to be the necessity of today.
Imagining life without this little yet addictive junk box today seems terrifying. It’s like the best companion to us everywhere even in the washroom. It has replaced our real friends into facebook / virtual friends, our diaries into a phone contact list, letters to e-mails, phone calls to WhatsApp voice notes, feelings and emotions to a facebook status.
Now don’t guess my age while reading this post and treat me as a pensioner, I’m still in my sweet 30’s, just missing the good old days and sad about the fact that I won’t be able to provide my kids the same atmosphere in which I have been raised – a gadget-free and technology-free childhood.
No matter how hard we try, it’s impossible today to keep the children away from technology. The moment they are born, they are exposed to cell phones, groupfies, selfies (of course taken by parents). And gradually to make our lives easier, we let them watch cartoons on tablets so that we can finish our chores and get some breath. They get glued to the screen and parents become happy to get some time for themselves and this is how their daily dose of screen time rockets up.
I have seen kids as young as 2 years, well acquainted with ipads, laptops, mobile phones, and whatnot. At the age of playing with blocks, crayons, legos, they own their personal tablet and operate it with such confidence that can amaze anyone. Parents have their own vindication “It’s the competitive world and kids have to be smart since childhood”. They find pride in highlighting this talent of their kids to society.
If I talk about myself, I learned computers in my school computer lab when I was in class 5-6th or even later. I know it won’t be reasonable if I start comparing our lives with that of our children as it’s altogether a generation gap and things have changed significantly in the last few years but I can’t deny the fact that technology has snatched the innocent and golden period of life from our kids. Poor babies, they don’t even realize it.
I feel sad that they will never be able to experience the joy of playing in the park, those unstructured, imaginative games, with friends, without getting lured to return home and sit on their PlayStation.
They will never have the craze of the TV like we had and used to wait for our favorite programs like Jungle Book, Rangoli, Mahabharat as they have the luxury and accessibility to watch their favorite shows on the Internet anytime.
Will not value the resources like TV, phones, radio as we used to have just one set in the entire huge family and everyone used to wait for their turn to watch their shows, make calls via landline or even listen to their channel on the radio.
They will not be able to experience the moments lazing around, basking under the sun in winters and sleeping at the terrace in summer nights.
Won’t understand the fun which we had while checking the cordless phone’s coverage by taking it to the terrace or other farther areas.
They will not understand the essence of relationships and family get-togethers. Now the wishes are exchanged on Facebook, WhatsApp and presence are marked even by going live.
Will know postmen only for the rarest of rare speed posts or delivering their passports and not for the handwritten much-awaited letters which had so many emotions wrapped in an envelope.
They won’t get to feel the excitement we had when we used to impatiently wait to see our pictures clicked by cameras and films were given to photographers to develop. They will miss the fun of guessing the pics by seeing their negatives.
Not sure if they will ever refer a dictionary for their vocabulary doubts as the Internet serves the purpose well.
They won’t get the joy of playing on the terrace with cousins when there were power cuts in summers and generators were for only a few rich people.
I can’t deny that I let my kids watch cartoons or I have devoided them of screen totally but I have set a limit to it. There are a few ways I divert my little ones from the screen, which you can also try:
- Get down on the floor and involve them in activities like playing, singing, dancing etc.
- Inculcate a habit of reading. Read stories with them while enacting and explaining. They will copy and learn.
- There are many activity and craft games available in the market which help kids learn and grow.
- Beads can be a good option to keep them busy for hours and they will become more creative.
- Many puzzles are available in the market for all age groups which will help them use their minds and have some brainstorming sessions.
- Lego challenge is a family fun activity in my home.
- Painting or coloring books is another creative activity that kids will love.
- Introduce them to the kitchen gradually, ask them to lend a helping hand in peeling green peas, boiled potatoes or even dressing the salad.
- Encourage them to do household chores depending on their age. My little ones (2.5 years) find pride in doing everything on their own, keeping their dirty clothes in washing machine, unloading the washing machine and putting the clothes on the dryer, keeping their dirty dishes in the sink, putting their toys in place after playing, tidying the room before going to bed etc. This will not only keep them active but also make them independent.
- Go on a walk or enroll them in hobby classes like music, dance, language, swimming, robotics, etc.
- Kids love bubble play, it comes to my rescue when nothing else helps.
- Many times, there are meltdown moments also but let them get bored. This way, they will try to explore new things and figure out the way to overcome their boredom.
- Lastly, remember while you try to limit kid’s screen time, you have you set an example in front of them by limiting your usage too. Kids need models, not preachers.
- Screen time is not bad as long as it is limited. Excess of anything is not desirable. Technology has its pros too if we use it effectively.
I am neither a pro in parenting nor I believe in any universal parenting rules. However, this is just my perspective, that I have offered on this subject which many of us ignore. While it may be natural to seek for our children, a childhood reminiscent of our own, we can’t overlook that our society is evolving and with it, childhood. Rapidly advancing technology and a changing atmosphere will result in a different experience for our kids and in the generations to come. We, as a parent, have to decide what kind of childhood we wish to give to our juniors – a gadget-free or gadget freak.