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In all senses, I am a walking zombie. The last time I slept for 5 hours straight was God-knows-when. Poor me! I reckoned if I was going to wallow in self-pity, I might as well do it over a cuppa. The microwave dings and I reach out to grab my coffee reheated now for God-knows-how-many-times, while day-dreaming about a nice, long, hot, uninterrupted shower. I wonder when did my day-dreams downgrade from exotic holidays to mere showers. More self-pity. I take a sip of the caffeine and decide to take it all in my stride. A warm, Zen-like serenity spreads all over my being. It lasts for about a second. Because the next second, my bubba screams blue murder. I immediately dig for the iPad, hoping to avert a catastrophe. That works like a charm. While the bubba is now happily squealing with delight every time the duck-says-quack-quack, I can entertain my delusions that all is well. But good things don’t last long. I can now hear that nagging voice in my head starting to insinuate me – iPad again? Again?? Before the other voice in my head (the one that says oh-you-deserve-some-me-time) can tell my fingers to stay put, I find my fingers reaching out to shut the quacking ducks and oinking pigs. And its mayhem. All over again. Sounds familiar?!
You’ve all seen that one kid who is always hunched over his tablet/smartphone/Xbox, totally oblivious to his surroundings. And maybe, at that point, you even promised yourself your kid is NEVER going to be like that. I know I’ve muttered to myself a million times now – no electronic media for my kid. But motherhood is a strange thing and sometimes, you gotta do strange things to keep your sanity – like handing the smartphone to your kid at the supermarket just so he’ll stop screaming, even though you resolved (only yesterday) you won’t do it again. If you are one of those mums who has defined clear cut boundaries for the kids and who can religiously enforce those boundaries, kudos to you. Not me. My leniency is my undoing. I’ve made and broken my boundaries a gazillion times now and I am exasperated at myself.
It is simply a no brainer that excessive TV watching and all this electronic media addiction is detrimental to a child’s development. “Don’t sit too close to the TV” or “Don’t lie there like a couch potato” – we’ve all grown up to such admonishments from our parents. It was not for nothing that TV was tagged an ‘idiot box’. And yet, we find ourselves handing out the tablets to our kids more often than we would’ve liked. They are the best babysitters you can summon at a moment’s notice. Why does this electronic media, such a boon to a mum’s sanity, have to be a bane in every other sense?
I want to lay my electronic worries and guilt to rest, once and for all. I decide to seek my enlightenment on the omniscient Google. I am fervently hoping to stumble upon an answer that would totally justify my handing out that tablet to my munchkin, whenever and wherever. I am disappointed with the answers because Google and my dad seem to be accomplices. Google is basically just telling me what my dad already told me every time I switched that TV on. Anyways, here is a quick rundown of what Google says :
Eyes: Children’s eyes are still in their formative years so the radiation from electronic media can only do more harm than good. There is also much research that suggests that prolonged phone and tablet usage can cause potentially irreversible damage to children’s eyes. There seems to be a Myopia (short sightedness) boom now, reportedly due to spending too much time looking at screens close-up.
Posture : Another serious concern as increasing number of children now report back, neck and other posture-related problems, caused by hunching backs and craning necks for hours together over tablets and phones.
Sedentary lifestyle: Watching too much TV and playing games on a screen makes Jack a dull boy. No wonder the younger generation battles with obesity.
Social and emotional skills: A kid that buries himself in the world of apps and games may find himself less interested in anything that is not on-the-tablet, thereby burying himself deeper into virtual world, which is no good for his emotional and social skills.
Inhibit creativity: Experts agree that engaging with and exploring the world in three dimensions helps foster creativity and imagination. There is only so much imagination in a virtual world.
Speech delays: The latest to join the bandwagon of electronic media after-effects is speech delays. More and more schools are reporting children with speech delays, apparently because they’ve spent too much time in front of screens, rather than talking humans.
But wait, all my Googling was not for nothing. Because I did finally find a silver lining to my cloud – technological intelligence. Many experts advocate regulated use of electronic devices as they believe it enhances the learning experience of toddlers and kids. A plethora of word and math building apps, which are also intuitive in their use, help enhance kids’ learning curve. These experts also argue that you cannot just shun these devices completely. Because, in today’s day and age, tech-illiteracy is akin to alphabetic-illiteracy.
However, the important point here is draw a line on the amount of its usage. As with anything else, excessive is detrimental. There are guidelines out there that recommend appropriate amounts of screen times based on a kid’s age. Limited-screen-time policy is also tricky since you will need to ensure it stays that way – limited. You do not want it to eventually burgeon and eat into times meant for outdoor play, reading books, making friends or simply just tickling-and-giggling-and-rolling-on-the-floor.
Well, that is not the perfect scenario I had hoped for. But I’ll take it anyway – a few mins of guilt-free, uninterrupted cuppa whilst I daydream of that exotic holiday.