Saturday, December 12, 2015

screen deprivation

Jo has been asking me for a mobile phone. I say I won’t give her one until the day she starts going places on her own or with her friends, and needs the phone to communicate.

Day has a phone but he hasn’t had his phone with him because most times I keep it, just so he’ll keep his head up and engage with the world.

I’m starting to think that I’m not doing the best thing.

For all that our generation tut and fret over how the kids of today have their heads buried in screens, and for all that we individually (depending on the type of parent we are) try to limit their time on electronic devices, they need it to engage with their world. Not the world that I want them to engage with, but theirs.

Without his phone most of this holiday, Day has barely kept in touch with his friends. At an age where (I hear) most boys are arranging to go out with their friends sans parents, Day has not. When he gets to touch his phone the one time every week, just to check messages and run through thousands of inane Whatsapp chats, he tells me he’s missed gatherings. He doesn’t mind, he accepts it as a fact of life that he is socially out of sight because I confiscate his phone, but I mind. I desperately want him to go out with his friends. If my taking away his phone is costing him his social life, I need a re-think.

In an ideal world, I wish they’d make the effort to call. But who does that nowadays?

The kids also never invite their friends to our home. Jo and Lu because they are truly shy, Day because he’s convinced his friends will be bored. In every of his friends’ homes he’s been into, and I swear it’s every one because I usually send him in, there’s some sort of Xbox or games console with remote controls which all the boys will cluster over. We only have a TV which is usually hidden. Of course, I could say I don’t care, the boys can think of something else to do. But from Day’s perspective, he’d have to think of how to “entertain” his friends and he’d rather not.

So not having a game “screen” at home means that he won’t invite friends back, and in future he’d probably be hanging out at someone else’s home.

In another instance where I was saw the light and was helplessly blinded, our neighbour’s boy, who has never quite become friends with the kids, was recently given an iPad or some such similar device. And when he showed my kids his device, for the first time in all the years we have rubbed shoulders twice a day, in school, out of school and in our estate, the two sides came together.

They TALKED. In English. About Benji’s Bananas which they were playing and laughing at together onscreen. And they wanted to go to each other’s house, for the first time ever.

I didn’t think it would ever happen but finally, after all the fumbling mummy attempts to get the kids to close the rift, they click over clicks.

I have always only thought about the benefits of keeping the kids as screen-free as possible. But I think it costs them, too.

The problem is how to balance.


Anonymous said...

Oh Sher this went straight to my heart! I am in the same boat. I know that if I give him a smartphone he will never surface for air until the batteries run out. But when he tells me about his classmates chatting on their class whatsapp group I feel so guilty! Will hold out for the moment, but am sure that it'll be a sure thing by the time he's in Sec 1. -- June

Sher said...

why am i not surprised ur holding out, u cool boho mummy!

good for u if u can hold out till sec 1! its hard.

esp since the phone is also v useful for other things, like chinese dictionary apps, and he's also expanding his music universe via the phone.

but how can i tell when he uses it for 'good' (in my definition) and 'bad'?

i think i can only hope that he's mature enough by now, to know how to use the phone responsibly.

i'm also starting to think i (we) are really fuddy duddy. i'm completely incapable of inane chatter in a whatsapp chat grp, even for adults. the thing is, this stupid chatter DOES bring pp closer together, because when we do meet face-to-face, i find i can't relate to the rest of the group!!