Sunday, February 22, 2015

Peer Pressure; The Gadget Edition

Over the Chinese New Year season, one of mrbrown's updates was "Words I find myself saying the most to my kids during ‪#‎CNY‬: "Oi! Put the iPad/iPhone down!"

It was a refrain too true for us as well. JED know that iDevices aren't kosher when it comes to entertaining themselves. And they are all good about it until they are faced with some other kid whipping out their iDevice then everyone gravitates toward it. Moths, naked flame, that sort of them.

While they know the rules by heart, their sense of self-restraint is as strong as everyone else playing by our rules. Unfortunately, we are in the minority and that makes it hard for our soon to be 8s and newly minted 5 to resist.

We go visiting or, during the non-CNY season, go out with a bag loaded with non-tech entertainment. Crayons, colour pencils, paper, magnetic puzzles and books; all stuff that JED are happy to play with on a regular day at home. The problem is that these work at home because there isn't an iDevice for them to fall back on. But it's a losing battle that we end up always having to fight; an uphill battle when many around us whip it out as their first resort to resolve boredom. Analogue toys and entertainment don't stand a chance when they are put beside their loud, flashy and digital cousins.

We do need to state on the outset that occasionally, JED do get time on the iDevices, like the last hour of budget-non in flight entertainment- flights where we need a breather from the non-stop stream of conversation that they've held since the plane took off or when they've displayed incredible patience, maturity and resistance in a situation or when there are sharp instruments about and we need them to stay perfectly still.

The point is that we don't want them to rely on the gadget as a first pick antidote against boredom. Because truly, they are harder to parent with the gadgets as child-minders. We've seen how when Muffin gets too much screen time and we try to take it away, there is much screaming and tantrum throwing. We've seen how the twins fight over a gadget because each feels that they haven't had enough time on it. We've seen how they turn into mindless drones unable to answer the simplest questions when they are watching pissed off birds attack alien green pigs. Our solution then, is to remove offensive gadget for more peace round the house. And every time we are at gatherings where these devices reign supreme, we go home with more angsty, demanding and indignant children.

In desperation, Packrat and I eventually resorted to telling them to pick between being able to watch television at home (another rare and treasured occurrence) and crowding around an iDevice to watch someone build something or plant crops. Yes, perhaps it is replacing one evil with another. Our defence is the television is more easily controlled by us and JED have to always come to a common consensus as to what to watch before the television goes on. That and the fact that television is purely a public holiday or weekend indulgence for them.

It is a sad day when the least of all the evils is the television set and it is a viable alternative to 5 kids staring at the glow of one tiny device. 

We've tried everything.

a. Rationalising with them that non-screen games where they can include everyone else are more fun.
b. Lugging about the aforementioned bag of tricks.
c. Rewarding them for not being on the device.
d. Warning them of a future of rapidly increasing myopia.
e. Intoning the dangers of how these devices cause their brain cells to disintegrate and dribble out of their ears.

Sometimes one works better than the other, sometimes they need to work in tandem and sometimes none work at all.

While I love my gadgets as much as the next person, I really don't love how complicated it's made child rearing.


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