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Do parents depend on tablets and smartphones to babysit their children? Image Credit: Supplied

  • A millenial's perspective on using tablets to nanny children.

Dubai: As a millennial, I’ve spent a considerable part of my life addicted to my phone. My mother will tell you I still am, but she isn’t writing this piece. While the advent of technology has made our lives easier, it has also made us lazy. We try less because there’s another option that requires half the effort. However, when it comes to raising children, using tablets and phones too early, can be a bad idea.

Last week, I ate dinner in a small diner. A family of seven, seated with two toddlers, caught my attention. Everyone was busy eating till one of the toddlers, who was not more than four, let out a loud wail and cut through the faint clatter in the room. Looking at the little girl, another boy the same age, started fussing in his high chair, much to the despair of the parents.

The mother, both embarrassed and apologetic took the crying baby in her arms and rocked her, while another woman tried to calm the small boy. The crying didn’t last five minutes when someone whipped out a cellphone, tapped a few buttons and put on a video. Peppa Pig’s voice immediately captivated her audience, and like magic, both babies stopped crying.

Problem solved, or was it? Everyone shared looks of relief and pride when the commotion ended, but the whole situation left me with many questions. The most important one being: When I’m a mother, will I rely on a tablet nanny to calm my child down?

Should I?

While I understand that parents have their bad days and deserve the space to enjoy an activity peacefully, handing a child a tablet is not the answer. Children should be questioned and asked about what they are watching, so that the activity is more interactive. They need to be taught to actively understand what they are watching, not passively absorb information.

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However, I would suggest getting rid of the tablet altogether. In the late 1990s there were no smartphones or social media platforms for parents to rely on. What did they do with their children? Did we run havoc in the streets or start a baby apocalypse by ourselves? I don’t think so. Our parents deviously distracted our attempt at world domination.

My mother has always told me that I never threw tantrums when I went outside, as a baby. While she might be a little biased, her solutation to my small attention span was the ‘Special bag’- a hamper of toys and colouring books I would otherwise not get to play with at home. When we went out, I was handed this bag and I would sit in a corner and play peacefully for hours.

It really boils down to strategy and what we allow children to get used to. If you’ve always used an iPad or a tablet as a solution, the child is going to be conditioned to ask for it. Just because technology makes our lives better, doesn’t mean we should rely on it for everything. Moving forward, we should table the tablet nanny.