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Sunday, 27 September 2015

It Is Time To Look Up


“So, did you enjoy the party?”
“Uhhm, a bit.”
“A bit? I thought you enjoyed playing with the other kids.”
“Well, everybody just wanted to play Minecraft. They didn’t even want to play with normal LEGO!”

This was the conversation I had with my six year old daughter one evening after having just arrived home from a party. Her frustration really tugged at my heart. There she was, my friendly and outgoing six year old, surrounded by children her age, some a bit older, yet feeling alone because the others were too busy to look up from the digital world they were engrossed in, to even play with her. This made me ask myself, what kind of generation are we raising?

I see it all the time, a toddler in a stroller being entertained with an iPhone at the park, a toddler confidently navigating an iPad app at a children’s party, a little girl enjoying a game on her DS in a restaurant. All of them looking down instead of living in the moment.
But I have to admit, they used to be us. That couple at the next table who are both looking down on their phones used to be my husband and me and their little girl on the iPad used to be my six year old. Although I enjoyed using that undivided time scrolling on my phone because the six year old and the husband were also busy doing the same thing, there were no conversations and it has always made me uncomfortable. Aside from it not painting a good picture from the outside, neither is it painting a good picture from the inside, as far as our relationship as a family is concerned.
 I remember before the time of smart phones, my husband and I used to be so engrossed in a conversation while waiting for our food in a restaurant or while in the car and how I used to play with my daughter endlessly when she was little rather than shove an iPad under her nose.  This made me realize that I want to have those conversations again and I want to have that endless playtime with my daughter again, before she grows up and it is too late.
 I realised I have had enough of living a distracted life, of not living life fully because of the trappings of technology. I decided it is time to look up as I realized I wanted to look at my husband’s eyes again when we are having a conversation, watch my daughter run around in the playground or see her priceless smile while playing instead of constantly looking down on my phone. I wanted to live in the moment again, not through a screen and I wanted the same thing for my daughter. A life where first thing in the morning she would look forward to finish that Lego structure she started the night before or finish that book she had been reading rather than check on a life she is building in a virtual world. I want a life for her that is not consumed by likes and comments on Facebook. A life that is not spent looking endlessly at a screen.
I would rather she engages with her friends in real time rather than talking to them through an app on the phone when they are very well sitting beside each other. A life in the real world and not in a virtual world.
From then on, we stopped taking the iPad out whenever we go out and imposed time limits using it. We stopped having phones and tablets on the dining table during meal times and I have made a conscious effort to stop looking at my phone while in a restaurant but better yet, keeping it in my handbag the entire time. We have also started using again the kids activity packs that restaurants provide and started doing regular outdoor activities. We have also started playing with Lego again, as a family. In other words, we started interacting and talking again, in the real sense of the word.
It is still a work in progress but we are almost there. My daughter seldom uses the iPad now and even hardly asks for it. I guess it was harder for me than for her as I love spending time online but as a parent, I know my priorities. I need to lead the way. That new article can be read later and Instagram can definitely wait.
I do not know if my daughter will continue to shun the trappings of technology but what I know is that I don’t want her to be that little girl in the corner with her iPad while the rest of the children are having the time of their life in the real world.

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