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Facedown Generation

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It’s crazy, the type of things parents have to worry about these days. Things have changed so much from when we were kids. It’s like a whole different world out there and I’m not sure I like it much…(my husband is more positive about it..). When we were kids, we used to play so many games outdoors. Most of my memories from childhood are about playing outdoors and inventing games with my sisters or friends. At school, we used to play so much in the playground. Such innocent fun.

Wow. How things have changed.

I don’t let my girls use the iPad or iPhone for games or movies, unless I’m traveling and I feel it’s necessary for me to have a moment of peace (and at the same time wonder how my mother EVER got any peace, without these devices!?). So my girls aren’t exposed to it much, and yet, they both walk up to the big TV and keep swiping it like it’s a phone or iPad!? They are 2.5 and 4 and yet if they got a hold of my iPhone, they know exactly how to play a game or look through my pictures.

Even schools are starting to use iPads and going on about the educational benefits of these devices. How is it possible that someone can tell me that an ‘app’ is able to teach my child something better than just trying to explain it to her yourself? And yet I also keep reading about how all the high tech executives and chief tech officers of Amazon, eBay, Google, Apple, Yahoo, Wikipedia, etc, are all sending their kids to Montessori or Waldorf schools, which pride themselves on being no tech schools. So basically the most tech-cautious parents are actually tech designers and engineers, as well as the chief officers of high tech companies. Doesn’t that say something to you?

The problem I have with these devices isn’t the actual device itself. It’s the way in which it is used, and how parents actually monitor it. I see nothing wrong in letting my kids watch a movie on a flight or play a quick game on an iPad during a long car trip. But it’s so important to monitor the time spent on the devices. If you allow your child unlimited access to these devices, it becomes like a drug to them. You often see in public a mother trying to take away a device from a child, and the aggressive temper tantrum that follows. Kids are becoming bored and uninterested unless they are being plugged in. It’s like a digital drug!

A recent brain imaging research showed that the use of these devices affects the brains frontal cortex - which controls executive functioning, in the exact same way cocaine does. Technology is so hyper-arousing it raises dopamine levels. It’s now often refereed to as ‘electronic cocaine’, ‘digital heroin’, etc. No wonder kids become agitated when screen time is reduced.

I’m not trying to sound like I am all against these advances in technology, and my husband always tries to explain to me all the good it does as well. But I really think as a parent the important thing is to limit the time spent on these devices so they don’t become addicted and start escaping into this digital world. For me that’s easy, as my kids are young enough to put limits and controls on. But what about when they become teenagers and its the norm for them to have their own device? How can parents limit the use once it’s in their children’s own hands and control?

I believe the only thing we can do is to educate them and try to make sure they have tons of interests in the ‘real & natural world’. If a child is more engaged in creative activities and connected to her family and friends, it’s less likely that they will escape into the digital world. Luckily I have good examples around me. Both my sisters have teenage kids. My one sister has made sure they never even had a TV in the house and made sure the girls were interested in reading all sorts of books from a very young age. My other sister has 2 boys and they have been so involved in the outdoors and in sports, that they hardly ever use their devices either. My parents would never allow any sort of device at the dinner table or family gathering, and I have made sure to follow in these examples as well.

Of course things are getting harder and harder, and it will be a challenge for me with the girls, as they get older and their friends start using all the social media sites and start snap-chatting, etc. Of course since this is the way of the future, we cannot act like it doesn’t exist or prohibit them from it, but it is our responsibility to limit the use and monitor it all. I have friends who have kids that are teenagers and their biggest concerns are over who their kids are ’snap chatting’ with or who they are ‘friends’ with. And I believe it’s right for them to be concerned and for them to monitor it.

I know at times being a parent is about survival. And I will be the first one to grab an iPad during long travels for the sake of everyone….. But at the same time I believe it’s so important to allow your kids to have healthy social interactions, creative imaginative play and for them to engage in the ‘real’ world. So now I’m thinking of all the nice activities and sports and creative plays I can introduce Gaja and Soraya to, to keep their interests as much as possible in the ‘real’ world!

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