Editor’s Note: This is a guest post. Michael Gilin is a husband, father, telecommunications professional and blogger at Maveze. Fascinated by social media, amazed by technology, thinks he has valuable things to say and loves to share his observations and opinions with the world. You can follow his blogs here and here.
No doubt we live in a super technological era. And it’s a blessing. It’s what drives all the mankind forward into the future. But in some way, as every coin has two sides, it’s also a curse. Technology is making our lives easier in many ways, but also turns us to be quite dependent on it. It is changing the way we live, influencing the way we behave, altering the way we think. And if by “we” I mean mostly iY, Y and even X generations. You can only imagine the implications it will have on our children.
When I was a 4 years old toddler (in the beginning of the 80s), the most sophisticated piece of technology we had was a black-and-white TV set with manual knob to change the channels and adjust the brightness.
Nowadays, my own 4 years old toddler is an expert in putting a YouTube video he likes on the laptop using either trackpad or a mouse, skip the Ads (it was before we put the relevant software to eliminate this problem…), make it full-screen and turn up the volume. And this is nothing compared to his proficiency in the smartphone’s area. He can do lots of stuff with the phone. He can play games, take photos, show them to us and then take more. He can find his favorite songs, play them and then adjust the song progress cursor to the part of the song he especially likes. Well, he can also occasionally call someone from the contacts list and then hang up. So, if I am getting a call from the plumber who’s asking whether I called him, I know who is responsible for that.
My kid is teaching the girls how to play a game, but check out this other kid that “steals” his mom’s phone…
All of this is amazing, but the thing is that smartphone is a modern pacifier. And the catch with pacifier is that it calms the kid down and keeps him quiet, but it also turns into an addiction. The same with the smartphone, you can give it to the kid and he’ll be quiet and not bother you unless he wants to pee/poo/eat/drink (and even that is not for sure). For the kid, it’s a miraculous world that he wants to be a part of. Thus once he gets to know of its existence, he yearns for it every spare minute and turns to be quite demanding. I can’t even count the number of times my kid was begging me or my wife for a phone.
So, what’s the problem, you may ask? Let the kid play!
Well, as a kid, I was taught that too much of something is never good. Too much candy, will make your teeth hurt; too much TV will cause damage to your eyes; too much coffee will make your teeth yellow. The latter is from the grown-ups world, but you get the point. In the same way, too much smartphone will make your kid a swyping zombie with back and neck problems. I am not trying to be apocalyptic, it’s just that in this modern age the parents are working hard, running around and at the end of the day want to just calm down from all this mess. Here the smartphone comes quite handy to satisfy the kid who is maybe just as well looking for our attention.
It’s all an illusion. Kids don’t really need a smartphone. They also don’t really need a tablet. At least till certain school age. It’s the other kids, that their parents weren’t tough enough and bought them one, who show off with it and cause your kid to want it. At the end of the day, it’s us, parents, who are looking for an easy way out. Call me old-fashioned, but kids should be out having fun at the playground and not slicing the fruit in “Fruit Ninja” all day. They should be playing basketball outside and not spending hours “running” at “Temple Run”. I see less and less kids outside nowadays doing kids’ stuff. And hanging around with friends, each one “buried” into his phone is not kids’ stuff.
You may say: “Well, nowadays, the things are different, than they were in the past”. And I agree. It’s not all bad, smartphones and computers make our kids develop certain skills that we, as kids, didn’t possess. But it also causes them NOT to develop other skills that our undigitized brain DID. Simple example: memory. Today, all the information is accessible on the Internet and it eliminates the need to remember anything at all. So called “general knowledge” can be easily googled and different historical facts that our parents remember by heart, because they read it in the books, can be picked up from Wikipedia in a number of seconds, by any kid. So, why bother to even try to memorize something.
We indeed live in a super technological era, but it doesn’t mean that the kids should grow completely digitized. Just like in any other area, we have to be in control and put some boundaries out there. Believe me, I am talking from my own experience. Here are some simple measures you can take to control the addiction:
- If he’s asking for a phone just say “No”. Of course, don’t be obnoxious. Say it in a most pleasant, but assertive way you can. Try to make conversation out of it and understand why is it so important for him to have it. If you get yourself a scene, don’t give up. Perseverance is a key to success.
- If you gave him the phone, limit the usage. Agree on some terms and stand by them. Some possible agreements may be: “Use it for 5 minutes” (even if he still doesn’t understand the time concept) or “One game of angry birds” or “One Tom and Jerry and that’s it”. Don’t put your hope on the kid to come to you and say “Here, I finished the game, take the phone”. That won’t happen. You are the one to enforce this agreement.
- Try to use his playing with the phone for your own benefit. For example: If he’s playing “Talking Tom”, agree with the kid that if the cat says “Let’s eat dinner”, he must go eating. If you are familiar with this app, you understand that it’s quite easy to do…This way, you both have fun and also gain a kid eating dinner. But, beware not turning it into habit.
- If you leave the kid alone with the phone (sometimes it’s necessary), for your own good, install one of the “sandbox” applications, such as Zoodles or Famingo. Maybe there are more. They basically offer you to have a separate profile designed for the kid. This way he’ll only be able to use the apps that you let him and not mess with your contacts, SMSs or post to Facebook on your behalf.
// Michael Gilin