Are gadgets parenting your children?
Are you familiar with this scenario? You have been invited to your friend’s house for a Friday night dinner party. There are ten others in the living room having a jolly good time with drinks and short eats. It’s 8 pm and the children – a girl of three and a boy of 7 – have had their dinner, have `hello uncle and hello auntie’s all of you and then they vanish. After an hour you wonder where the children are and are informed by your dear friend, the host, that they are busy playing in their rooms. At 10 pm, with the party in full flow, you ask to use the washroom and are told to use any of the many. You are nosy, you are curious and you choose to enter the children’s room. The room is in darkness except for the light shining on the two children’s animated faces from their hand-held devices. You greet them and they stretch and `hello auntie’ you again. You spend a minute with them and find out that the younger one is watching cartoons and the elder one has paused his `kill or be killed the game. When you re-visit the room at 12.30 am, your friend’s daughter has fallen asleep with the cartoon characters busy doing their bit on the screen and her son has slid further down on his bed but is still going strong on his ‘kill bill’ mission.
We have come to accept gadgets as a necessary evil in our lives and some even speak of intelligence enhancing the ability of gadgets. Studies, which are not necessarily conclusive, have shown that gadgets have many positive outcomes. Children’s fine motor skills – the use of fingers, toes, lips, writs and tongue – develop faster when they use gadgets. Their cognitive skills, which help them make sense of the world by processing information, remembering and making connections, are said to improve. Visual presentations, educational videos, interactive programs, learning tutorials and a variety of books as well as educational games, quizzes and apps help children to perform better in their schools. Apart from that, children can be kept occupied for hours and weeks doing nothing other than being on their gadgets. And there is no denying that they have fun as they enter a variety of online competitions with their friends and random opponents and learn to take on challenges.
So then why are some people making such a big hullabaloo over an inevitability? Studies that show the usefulness of gadgets have also come up with some startling results. As they become married to the mobile or some other gadget that they are given access to by parents, children become asocial and resent any attempt to take time away from their gadgets. Parents complain of poor eating habits and of weight gain aided by the junk food that seems to go with a gadget obsession. Children become sulky, moody and some of them lapse into inexplicable childhood depressions. Some of them develop Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) which causes them to be fidgety, unable to focus, restless and easily distracted. There is no gainsaying that this has major implications for their academic life and peace at home. Children hooked on gadgets are often angry at small things and develop anxiety.
In terms of dealing with their childrens’ gadget addiction, many parents have already missed the proverbial bus and have surrendered to their children who become increasingly aggressive about their gadget usage and any comments regarding this. However for those who still see that there is hope for them and their children, here are few tips that could help them.
1. Acceptance: Accept that gadgets are a part of modern-day life and the more you try to keep them away from your children the more they will seek to use them take you into a zone of eternal conflict and family discord.
2. Knowledge: As a parent, you need to operate from a position of knowledge rather than speculation, gossip and ignorance. Know what your children are doing on the gadget, the nature of their occupation, the sources of their information and the good and the bad that can come out of it.
3. Essential agreements: No one – neither the kids nor their parents – is happy with the bickering that goes on regarding this issue. So make essential agreements with your children regarding
a. The duration and nature of gadget usage.
b. The school work they need to complete before using gadgets
c. Sharing of information regarding gadgets with parents
d. The mealtimes and the content of food that they eat
e. The place and posture they may use when with their gadgets
f. The absolute ‘NO’ on junk food in bed or outside when on gadgets
g. Fixed lights out time
h. A compulsory outdoor time.
Above all find out a game that you can play with your addicted child on his gadget so that your child’s best friend is no longer your enemy.