My baby is five months old and she’s already had more conversations on Skype than I had in my first 25 years. I know, it’s a well-worn tale, but when you see it unfolding you realise just what a different world children live in today. This generation is from another century, and technology is part of their DNA. We had the X and Y generations, and now what are we on – ZZ?
Of course, I would never deny her grandparents their daily “chats” with their granddaughter, and I also want her to get to know them as much as possible given that we live on another continent. However, I do wonder what it is doing to her brain to spend so much time looking at a screen.
We worry about youngsters playing too many video games and “tut-tut” that children these days are turning into zombies plugged into smart devices. But what can we do to avoid it? I can’t rewind time to the era of letter-writing and landline telephones (although sometimes I wish I could). This is her age, her era and she will know nothing else.
The globalised world is, in many ways, a blessing. I can live in Dubai but stay connected with people all over the world. I can work from wherever there is an internet connection and my entire social network is in my pocket. But I don’t know if I would have wanted that as a child. I cherish the memories of spending entire afternoons curled up with a book or two and delving into the imaginary worlds of my favourite authors.
I love that I used to play dress-up or supermarket shop with my sister and my cousins and I’m sure that to this day, my body is benefiting from the hours I spent horse-riding, riding my bike, swim training and running around.
Now, I don't think technology removes everyone from the simple pleasures in life or turns us into the idle blobs we see in Wall-E (if you haven't seen that movie, you must) but I do think that we have to make more of an effort to carve out time for those things around our computer time. I worry that this will affect my daughter's growing body and her burgeoning imagination. Many parents these days feel the same – you only have to open a social media feed to find people telling you to turn off the screens if you want to bond properly and raise, I quote from a recent Facebook post, a "resilient" child.
The tide against us is strong however. Sheer desperation for quiet amid a tantrum, to manage a long journey or when you have exhausted all other possibilities of entertaining your child – technology really can be a lifesaver at times. And, to all those who shake their head disapprovingly when they see a child with their iPad at a restaurant table, how do you know that isn’t the first time in months the mother has dared to take her child out and, for the sake of one peaceful meal, has resorted to the only solution that we all know works a charm? It is a mixed blessing, as all developments in this crazy world we live in are.
I have to just admit that my daughter is most likely to grow up living in a semi-virtual world and I can do nothing to stop it, so I might as well embrace it.