Over the weekend I attended a school of parenting session organized by Daystar Christian Center. The topic of discussion was ‘Digital Heroine’. Having a discourse on this has become necessary at a time when the ‘screens’ have become a huge part of our lives – TV, computers, tablets, smart phones, gaming devices etc, and very naturally our children are not left out.
To help participants get a good grasp of the topic, the organizers played a video showing two families with young children and how they have allowed technology to become a part of their life. One family had a child about three years old who sat on the couch all through with her tablet, and when it was time to go to bed, her mum tried taking the tablet away from her, she screamed and kicked and held fast unto the tablet and that caused a lot of frustration for the mum. The other family had set time for their kids to use their devices after which they went out to ride a bicycle or play a musical instrument. They seemed more relaxed and happier too.
The videos said it all. It showed how the initial desire to use these devises as a means for relaxation and fun can lead to a serious addiction if not checked. It is alarming to note that some countries are beginning to have rehabs for people who need help with screen addition, most of them young people.
What can we do without technology? It helps us get things done and to connect with people. But we often do not realize they also have some negative effect on us especially when we become addicted to the use of these devices. Some of such negative effects include damage to the eye sight as a result of the blue rays, sleeplessness and poor sleeping habits, fatigue, poor eating habits when we prefer finger foods like pizza, chips and other snacks instead of wholesome food, aches and pains on the back and waist, headaches, eye strain, withdrawal from normal relationship with real people, secretive lifestyle, exposure to pornography, exposure to people of negative influence, etc.
How do you know when your child is becoming addictive to these devices? Basically when he/she cries or whines at any attempt to take the devices away (for young children), that shows the child is becoming additive and immediately the parents should seek to help the child stop the addiction. It is easy to notice addiction in older children; they are glued to their devices even at dinner!
At the event, some parents lamented that they were having a hard time dealing their kids as young as 6 who will not just let go of their tablets. A grand mum who attended the session more out of curiosity shared her experience in the house of one of her children. Her child has 3 children, the first was born at a time when these devices were not so prevalent and she still relates normally with her whenever she visited, but the younger ones will hardly put their tablets down to talk with her! And she finds it a serious cause for concern.
Another mum observed that while on a visit to her friend’s who has 2 children with over 10 years in between, the older child found it hard to spend time with his younger one considering the age gap, so he spent all day in his room alone but was often heard talking to ‘somebody’, most likely a friend on the phone but spent little or no time with his kid brother.
Most mums confessed that they introduced these devices to their kids as a way to keep them busy so they can concentrate on what they need to do but in the process the children have become so used to the smart phone it’s a problem getting them to stop. Even when they can’t have access to mummy’s phone as soon as an uncle or aunty visits, the kids would quietly grab their phones and the game continues!
More and more school are adopting technological devices as mode of learning and while that is a welcome development the school management and parents will have to work together to make sure the devices are used strictly for learning and that students especially boarders are monitored to prevent abuse.
Screen addiction is no doubt a serious challenge for today’s parents especially when we are always on the screen giving our children cause to do exactly the same. Marriages and family relationships are breaking down because couples send more time on the phone than with one another and with their families. Parents were cautioned on the need to set good examples for their children.
And for those of us whose jobs require being on the screen most times, we were advised to follow the 20-20-20 rule which says every 20 minutes take a break from your screen for at least 20 seconds and look at something 20 feet away from you, this will help reduce eye strain. Can children also follow this rule?!