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Blog - Following butterflies

Interestingly, Tech gurus, do not even allow their own kids to have phones till they are 14-16.

« Regarde le joli papillon! Il vole ….Youpiii…Youpiii et une cuillere dans la bouche…miam…miam » and that is how I get my two-year old to eat her food. My child is a picky eater who is also stubborn and dramatically spits her food when forced.

So I divert her attention on her surroundings; basically anything that moves; frogs; birds; butterflies; aeroplanes flying across; enables me to feed her. It also means that by constantly talking to her; she is picking up on new words as she listens to me and we are also building our relationship of mother and daughter. Spending quality time and regular conversations are the strong foundations for any strong relationship and we may think that babies are too small to understand but the early years of our children are the most critical years where we thread the invisible bond between parent and child.

However, I notice with regret the increasing use of smartphones by new mothers as tool to eat food or simply to get some free time. True; the kid’s attention will be focused on the screen and it will be easier for the child to eat. We also comfort ourselves by choosing educational shows and apps. But at what cost?

Between the age of 0 and 2 years, an infant’s brain triples in size; the child’s brain develops through the parents’ touch, voice and playtime. At birth, the baby’s brain has a hundred billion neurons which are not connected; these get connected on the experiences they have with their parents; in gazing into their mothers’ eyes; in the love and care; the bear hugs and the laughter. Shoving a smartphone under our kid’s nose blocks the relationship building milestones that can occur between parent and child. What warmth can a smartphone give?

Children need attention but unfortunately parents are so busy ticking off notifications or mindlessly scrolling up and down their Facebook anxious of missing out on a recent post. Smartphones create such anxiety in us that we constantly feel there is a burning situation which requires our immediate attention and that is unfortunately not the case. A study by King’s College, London in November 2019 says that addiction to smartphones means that people become panicky if denied constant access. The study also warns that this can have serious consequences for mental health.

Parents are now complaining that kids do not read like before but maybe we should look deep within ourselves; what is the example that we are giving. Parents are the first leaders for a child; let us lead by example.

Let’s look at the impact of smartphones on Generation Z, those who have grown with technology readily available compared to millennials who adopted technology and had a computer in their family room in their teens. The Generation Z is today’s student and the worker of tomorrow. Based on the King’s College study, today’s teenagers have lower attention span, are increasingly irate and impatient and are also more prone to mental problems such as depression and anxiety. Screen time has led to lower interest in playing in the outdoors; basking in natural sunlight and enjoying fresh air is no longer a pleasure. A higher incidence of obesity and lethargy is also being noted in youngsters.

With those recent reports, we are aware of the damaging impact of screens on a child’s development and psyche then why do we persist in exposing our little one to smartphones? Even more scary is the effect of harmful radiations of smartphones on a growing brain. What are we doing to our children?

Interestingly, Tech gurus, the same masterminds behind the apps and the phones, restrict phone usage and do not even allow their own kids to have phones till they are 14-16. Being in the bay, they see first-hand the addictive impact of smartphones on adults; now what to speak of the impact of a baby’s tender brain. Bill Gates famously explained that he gave his kids phones when they turned 14 and also limited their screen-time afterwards.

What do we want for our children? We want them to grow happy and wholesome with the vitality and the strength to overcome life’s challenges and difficulties. We want them to develop their decision-making skills so that when we can no longer shield them; they can stand up strong and have the intelligence to choose between right and wrong. No matter how educational an app is or how amusing a song is on youtube; these will not replace the warmth of a mother’s gaze or her loving words; it will not replace the exhilaration and faith felt when a father throws his daughter in the air and safely catches her; it will not replace the joy of making a grand-father chuckle or a grand-mother hugging her grand-child. However mundane these experiences can sound; these help a child grow into an emotionally stable adult. Unfortunately, we are introducing children to smartphones at a tender age where they have not yet developed their moderation and impulse control skills thus creating a disinterest for building healthy relationships.

The choice is ours. Maybe we should let them follow butterflies…

Jenna Sooriah

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