Overstimulated

It seems that one can hardly go out in public these days without seeing families with children. And it seems that every kid comes with some kind of electronic device as standard equipment.

Now anyone to takes more than a cursory look through the hundreds of posts on this blog cannot fail to notice that I am no techno-Luddite; I have been programming computers since the early 1980s, and have carried a PDA of one sort or another since the early 1990s. I am certainly not about to rail against technology, electronics or innovation. But these kids are not using the technology to learn or explore, they are using it to play games… thought that may not be what many of these “little angels” are telling their parent…

This is nothing new; back in 1989, I remember a co-worker trying to justify an expensive personal computer purchase as so that the kids can learn “about computers and stuff”; when I expressed my disbelief as to the real motives of the children, he got upset . So I proposed a test; I told him to tell his children that no games would be purchase for the new computer (the World Wide Web was still half a decade away), and he agreed to go along with it.

The following day, he told me that when he broke the news, his daughter lapsed into sullen silence, while his son rolled around on the floor wailing, with pounding fists, kicking feet and tears rolling down his face in what we would now refer to as a fully-fledged hissy-fit. Even back then, kids preferred shiny, expensive toys to learning tools.

Not long ago, I saw a mother handing over her iPhone to her infant child in a stroller. A few minutes later, the child threw the phone against a pillar, cracking the screen. “And that’s why we don’t give six-hundred-dollar smartphones to small children“, I said aloud, mostly to myself. I don’t know whether she heard me; part of me hopes so, another part doesn’t really care.

So why do parents do this? Why do they allow children to play games everywhere they go?

The main excuse that I have heard is “To keep them out of my hair“. Turns out that children have a lot of questions, and they ask them incessantly. And parents are generally too harried, to busy, too exhausted to deal with this.

What went wrong? When did we become too busy to spend time with the children that we claim to love more than life itself?

Here is my two cents: No gadgets in the restaurant. No gagdets in the dining table., No gadgets in the car. No gadgets when you are walking around. And parents, let’s set the example here; children have an annoying habit of ignoring what we say and doing what we do – ladies, I am looking at you.

Let’s concentrate on teaching children to read, write and speak well enough to make their way in the world, and more importantly, to think, to imagine, and to create.

After all, that’s what parenting is really about.

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