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"Mom! Can I please download a game, mom? Please!!??" I am on a bus and I hear a child ask his harried mother this question. The mother, who is working furiously on her iPad, is only too happy to let the child choose a game and downloads one for him. A few minutes into the game, the child is bored. "I am bored of this game, mom! Lets download another?!".....sound familiar? Most parents can relate to the above incident, and those who don't are either not parents yet or are blessed with children who know better ;-)
We hear children as young as three, four and five years of age, keen on (and surprisingly, even knowing how to!) download games on their parents' smartphones and tablets or iPads. Though, as youngsters ourselves, even we were fascinated by video games and computer games and even agreeing that it is natural, it is still a bit of a concern that our children, very young children, are caught in the lure of these games. But if you ask me, the question is not why are the children hooked on to games and smartphones? The question is why have we let them?
Remember the time when as children, we used to hear stories from our grandparents? Remember when we used to play made up games with our friends in the apartment building where we lived? Remember the fights, the make believe sword fights we used to have with our siblings? I remember my mom using peanuts to teach me simple addition and subtraction, and if I got the sum right, I could eat half of the peanuts we used....(some incentive that was, 'cause this way, I learned how to calculate half of any number, quicker than I'd have otherwise learnt in school).
The games, the stories, the songs of our childhood....we do try to pass on to our children most of these as much as we can, but still, things are very different today. Many of us have flown our nests and the apartment buildings where we grew up with many friends, have become the things to reminisce about. Many of us don't even live in the same country we grew up in, and with that changes a lot. Even for those who are still in the same place, times have changed and the ease and the fun that defined our childhood doesn't define our children's.....which is more than sad.
In our hurry to get our work done and our constant quest for a better life for our children, somewhere we lost tract of the children themselves. How difficult is it to strike up a conversation with your child while you wait for the school bus in the morning? Or maybe play a simple game of spot the red car or count the bikes with your child while travelling by road? Why not indulge in a simple game of snakes and ladders on a rainy day ? Or play dress up?
Oh, I forget! Who has the time! We get five minutes, and we have to either be on a call or have to check on our emails or WhatsApp or Facebook..... and do so much else, (well there are also responsible parents who do not do this but take time out to clean the house, do their laundry and hordes of other things...) that a few minutes of respite is used to give the phone or the tablet to the child to do whatever pleases his mind as we have to get on with our work.
Everyone blames the TV for spoiling our children but a bigger danger is lurking in our homes, small enough and smart enough to fit in those tiny hands and change their worlds forever, like never before! From a very young age, our children are exposed to games and apps on our smartphones and if we, as parents are not careful, it is only an invitation to disaster. It is important to check what your child is downloading, what games your child is playing. Though mindless games are okay once in a while, it can act as an addiction that is difficult to get rid of as the child grows. Also, many of these games need your child to make a lot of in-app purchases that you need to set proper controls for.
Now, you could say, look, I hear you, but my child is not growing up in the environment that I grew up in. He doesn't have friends in our apartment; nor do I have the time to spend playing with my child! Plus, in today's day and age of technology, I don't want to leave my child out of playing games on my smartphone and my tablet, all his friends do it, and I don't want my child to be left out! (You will be surprised how many parents think so.) Okay, so now we have restrictions on physical play....so instead of taking a child to the park, we download a game for him that simulates the park....
Well, if it is so difficult to get your child experience the same childhood as yours, and if you absolutely have to introduce your child to the world of apps and gaming, why not invest a little time and get the games and apps that will help your child...teach him something new... Why not get a game that challenges her intellect or even teaches her something really important....Choose a game wisely.....try and see age appropriate games and informative apps....children are like a sponge, ready to absorb all the knowledge that they can....use the apps to bring this knowledge to them in story format that they will enjoy.....there is a lot you can do ...... but then again...that will involve you having to make the time.
But I say, make that effort, take those five minutes. So the next time you give your phone to your child to play while you work, you know that he too is investing his time in an activity that stimulates his mind...makes him work, and learn too, in the process. After all, your children are going to be this young only once. Give them the chance of remembering their childhood as fondly as you remember yours :-)