This topic came up last
year and it is such a hot issue among parents. How much is too much screen
time? Gopal develops our international websites and has an interesting
perspective. Please, weigh in.
My kids consider their time on their iPad as "playing."
Sadly, playing outside of the house is a forced activity – and a struggle. Their friends come over with their iPod Touches or their Wii games. They sit and they "play." And while my girls might try sports or go for walks with our family, they love their "devices."
I’m afraid that this is life with a 13- and 9-year old girl during the digital revolution. And as a technology director, I struggle between pushing them offline – and encouraging their expertise in the next best thing.
See, I grew up in India in the 70s and 80s and didn’t even have a TV until 1989. An LED calculator and a radio were my only two electronic assets. I spent my childhood playing cricket outside with friends. All we needed was an empty space, a bat and ball.
I came to the U.S in 1990, which is when I first used a computer. I had no idea what email was. Fast forward to today, I feel addicted to my iPhone and iPad. My wife calls them my "additional wives.” And the trend and love for technology is spreading to my daughters.
We see this everywhere. I go to restaurants and toddlers are on iPads. I go to the supermarket and parents hand their phone to their baby to keep him or her occupied. My coworker’s baby knows one sign language sign – it’s a finger swipe to indicate that she wants to play with her iPhone. She’s not even a year old!
Evolution. Revolution. Obsession. Addiction. What we have are technological babysitters. No, we’re not leaving our kids in the hands of an iPad while we leave them alone, but we are teaching them to be entertained by an object, letting this object take care of them – rather than kids learning to entertain and care for themselves.
I get that. And yet I still think kids using technology this way has its advantages.
Technology is developing at a warp speed. Kids being early adopters of these ground-breaking inventions, learning how to use them before they can talk and walk, is building the next generation of tech-developers and inventors. Watch a 5-year old work a computer game and your mind will be blown by the speed and dexterity of his fingers. The understanding he has for the program he is seeing for the first time. The technology they can teach themselves at a young age is just like a language being taught to them. But there’s the thing: It can’t be in lieu of the language – or the exercise – or the school work. It has to be in addition.
I read lots of articles about parents needing to unplug when they get home from work or go on vacation. Well, our kids need to as well. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends parents have "screen free" time at home. Turn things off. Make your kids read, play outside, cook with you, or just sit and talk. I also feel it should be off limits during family time, especially while eating dinner.
But soon schools will be providing iPads to kids. Their textbooks will be uploaded to their personal devices. Their classes will assume they know basic computer skills we learned in college – or during our careers. Imagine what they will build. What they will develop. What they will invent. This digital revolution still has a long way to go and I want my daughters to be right in the midst of it. I just worry what it might cost them if their mother and I aren’t vigilant.
Tell me, how do you balance technology and play?