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Put your family on a digital diet

Let your children be in the company of real friends, playing real games and enjoy reading real books

Gulf News

When Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India, encouraged a switch from e-governance to mobile governance, a few government officials worked feverishly on updating their Facebook status and uploading pictures that threw light on their political influences and milestones in order to impress him, especially during important meetings chaired by the prime minister himself.

Modi was quick to banish these hand-held pieces of technology into his meetings, the likes of which worked a few hundred seconds faster than light and kept busy government servants’ eyes and mind captive under its enticing digital spell, while the matters of the nation took a backseat.

Not too long ago, owning a telephone was a luxury.

Six months after Father made a booking, our very own shiny green phone arrived along with two directories that doubled as pillows when our relatives visited us. The phone was placed on a table that was specially made weeks before its arrival. My brother and I set out to make brief calls, under father’s watchful eyes, to our school friends to whom we otherwise never bothered speaking to.

Wonder what an ancient Roman would say if you told him that he could watch Gladiator while riding to Athens in climate-controlled comfort or how your great grandparents would react if they looked down from their heavenly abode and saw their great grandchildren holding onto tiny slabs to listen to ‘twinkle twinkle little star’ before they had uttered their first words.

I have always assumed that the founder of iPad, Steve Jobs, had touch screens instead of walls at home. Astonishingly, his children had limited access to technological wonders created by him and went to schools that focused on hands-on learning. Luckily, his creations have been put to good use by leading schools that have switched to e-books and use games as teaching tools, leaving Gen-Y parents confused and little children with glasses as thick as soda bottles.

With a generation of children growing up in a world surrounded by technology and the internet, parents often find themselves catching up with their offsprings digitally. Google has been my perpetual life saver. However, there are instances when I ask Sid, my son, to let me know the answer to his questions as I was willing, like him, to learn too.

Digital learning and e-books have saved our children’s backs — literally, with voluminous books at their fingertips. But whatever happened to cursive writing and spellings? I have caught Sid write ‘terrific’ with a ‘k’ and ‘wear’ almost always confused with ‘where’.

My daughter — who has also made her way into the world where tablets, smartphones and high-speed internet are as essential as the air we breathe — is under the impression that every piece of living or non-living thing can be brought back to life with charge.

During our last visit to Kerala, a glow worm caught her attention. When the worm ceased to glow, her solution was to charge it back to life!

Can a toddler who is born into a world ruled by technology be blamed for saying that?

Being one among a generation of parents who have lived a childhood free of technology, I consider it vital for children to be well-informed and encourage the wise use of technological advancements to their advantage as much as they are required to be in the company of real friends, playing real games and enjoy reading real books, for all the technology cannot sum up the joys of real friendship and the real feel and smell of books.

So, before the digital bug bites and later swallows us whole, reducing our brains and cognitive functions to the size of a pea, and before my children stumble onto games like The Blue Whale, I have decided to put my family on a digital diet.

I plan to start by accidentally switching the WiFi off when I intend to have a conversation with my husband or unintentionally slip the iPad into the microwave oven when I need to give Sid a piece of my mind.

But maybe it is a good idea to make a date with Google in order to find out the best solutions to my new-found predicament!

Pranitha Menon is a freelance writer based in Dubai.