I find myself asking this question more and more often these days. And I am terrified to accept it even though the truth is staring at me in the face. Of course, our kids are becoming screen zombies aka device zombies. Their classes are online. Their games are online. They spend more time in front of the TV and the iPad rather than interacting with humans. Their social skills are down below the basic level because they can hardly take their eyes or their thoughts off the television or their video games to have an actual conversation with the person next to them, be it their sibling or their parents or their grandparents.
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I recall going to my friend’s place and their 7-year-old son did not bother lifting his head from his mobile phone to greet us or give us a smile. Yes, you read it right. HIS mobile phone – apparently, giving a 7-year-old a phone of his own is mandatory now.. for the parent’s peace of mind. I still remember the ghastly feeling when I had seen my son struggle to have a conversation or think of something to play with his friend who had come home. I had said NO to TV and video games, insisting they actually play like kids. It was horrifying watching them sitting with blank faces, staring at each other trying to figure out what to do. It was as if their brains ceased to think if there was no technology or devices involved. All these incidents left me wondering as to what I am teaching my kids.
If this is one part of the horror story, the other part is that they have completely lost touch with handwriting. They do not read books. Books are just kindle or apple books or google books these days. I miss the good old way of reading… turning page after page. They have absolutely no idea how to use a dictionary. Remember, the good old days where we used to pick up a dictionary and try to look up the meanings of words we didn’t know or to learn new words? Yeah, nobody knows what that is anymore. Remember the days when we used to write down our homework, make mistakes, and learn from it, there is no learning involved these days. You know why? Because they type down whatever they want and the devices auto-correct the mistakes. There is no understanding of the mistakes. Hey, you don’t even know what mistakes you have made. The device has your back. Whatever the device says is correct.
Next comes the obsession with English. Of course, knowing English is imperative in the modern world. What about your mother tongue? Who is going to teach the children their mother tongue if it not English? I have seen parents being so proud that their child does not speak any language other than English. I feel sorry for them. Nobody should let children forget their roots. Learning English is great because it is a universal language but keeping in touch with your heritage is important as well. Who is going to teach the child about it if not us, their parents and grandparents?
I am not saying that technology is bad. It is not, because it is progress. But as parents, we need to draw a line as to how much we expose our children to technology and devices. While it is absolutely necessary that our children go with the latest developments and learn new technologies, it is also important to make sure they are not completely dependent on the devices for everything.
My son does not even bother to type anything in the search bar now. He just sits back and says “Hey Google” or “Alexa”. It makes me mad beyond reason. It is as if we are training them to be lazy. Google should not be the answer to everything. How else would the kids develop a bond with the parents and grandparents if they don’t talk to them and learn from their experiences? The amount of knowledge our elders can impart to us is far more fulfilling than what google can impart to our children. If we do not encourage social situations and human interactions and normal play for the kids, they will indeed turn out to be technological or device zombies who cannot function without them. I am struggling to restrict the screen time and device time of my kids. I am the bad person right now for doing that. But I know what is good for them in the long run and I am okay with being the bad person for the time being.
I have found some ways to distract them from their zombie devices – I call them that because they are turning my kids into zombies slowly.
1. Spend time with them – actually spend time, not sitting with them with your phone. Interact with your children. Talk to them. Eat with them. Play with them. Read with them. And not Kindle and Google books. The good old fashioned actually page-turning books.
2. Gardening – Encourage them to grow their own plants – anything really, from chilies to vegetables to some herbs.
3. Painting – Drawing, and painting are relaxing. Try it together.
4. Sports – Can be anything from cricket to basketball to soccer.
5. Cooking – Teach them to cook – it is an essential skill for them to survive… they will thank you later when they can manage to feed themselves without you.
6. You can go for walk with them, (while practicing social distancing and with masks of course)
There are many more things we can do with them. We need to think about it too.
It is agonizing to think about what this generation would do if they do not have access to their precious devices or the internet for a couple of days. Stop existing?
Technology is not people. We have to support each other and have each other’s back. I just want my children to know the alternatives. If Google does not work, they should know how to navigate a dictionary to learn new words. If there are no video games, they should not become blank and useless like zombies and should be able to think of games to play with their friends. I want them to have enough social skills to speak to their friends and neighbors face to face and not through texts in ‘lol’ and ‘imao’ language. I just want what’s best for the children. They are the future and the future cannot be zombiac.