Written by Ashwin Dewan and published on 13 July 2021.
As parents, we often admonish our kids for excess usage of gadgets. But do we wonder if we ourselves are overdoing it? More so during the pandemic, when our world has become one giant online microcosm
Gadget addiction among children has been a hot topic for years now, and much has been written about the ill-effects of excessive use of gadgets by children. And as parents, we're always trying to wean away our kids from too much screen time. Conversely, have you ever had a word with your kid to understand what he or she feels about your bingeing on the internet?
Believe it or not, we parents are equally guilty of excessive use of gadgets, and our children think so, too!
Most parents may not even be aware that their excessive use of gadgets has been noticed by their children who feel neglected and hurt. According to a study titled "Digital disruption? Maternal mobile device use is related to infant social-emotional functioning," published in Developmental Science by Sarah Myruski et al., infants and toddlers ranging from the age of seven months to two years of age were observed and assessed for behaviour, temperament and recovery. The findings showed that the infants and toddlers of mothers who were mostly on their phones expressed more distress when compared with those whose mothers were less engaged on the phone.
Children expect and require attention and time from their parents. Neglectful attitude from parents, due to excessive smartphone usage, not only sets a bad example for children, it can also affect them mentally. According to a study, 'Parental phubbing accelerates depression in late childhood and adolescence: A two-path model', published in the Journal of Adolescence by Chinese researchers Xiaochun Xie and JulanXie, parents who are guilty of ignoring their kids due to their addiction to smartphones may be putting their offspring at a risk of depression.
Phubbing is the act of ignoring other individuals or family members to pay attention to one's phone.
We at ParentCircle spoke to a few children to get to know what they thought of their parents' use of gadgets. From eye-opening to thought-provoking, humorous to serious, the answers that were shot back to us were a mixed bag, but all had one central message - parents, STOP spending so much time with your gadgets, and spend time with us instead!
Turning the tables
"No phones during dinner," my mother commanded sternly when I was in the middle of playing a game at 9 p.m. I looked up at her and frowned. A few months later..."Amma, are you free to play with me," I asked, when she was working at 9 p.m. She looked up and put on a forced smile.
- A conversation on gadget use between working mom Sathiyapriya and her pre-schooler, age 3.
Talk to me like you talk to your phone
My daughter, three, has just learnt to speak and she chatters on and on. So, when I get calls from office or my friends, or when I am ordering groceries, etc., I shush her, or shoo her away, asking her not to disturb me and go and play with her toys, and she would scamper off. I thought this worked, until the other day, when she turned to me and with a hurt look on her face, said, "I wish I were a phone. You will always hold me in your hand." I was stunned, and asked her what she means, and she shouted, "Talk to me, mom, like you talk to your phone. I will also talk right back to you." I felt all teary-eyed and decided then and there that I am going to limit my smartphone usage only to office work till she grows up.
- Rehna, mother of 4-year-old Runiya
I don't mind my parents using their phones
"Earlier I used to feel jealous that my parents could check their phones anytime they wanted to, but I have restrictions and get the phone to play games only on weekends. I used to even talk back when they asked me to reduce phone usage. Then my parents explained to me that for adults phones are a necessity as they can do many chores through it. They showed me how they can order groceries, do banking and book hotels and flights through the phone. Now, I don't mind them using their phones, but I always dream of owning a phone of my own. Then, I can also do all my chores through the phone."
- Akshita B, age 7.
I am okay, but they must take a break
"I want my parents to take a break from gadgets, but after the pandemic, they have begun spending more time on their phones and laptops. I voiced my displeasure to them, but one day, mama had a word with me explaining why they must check their phones and laptops as their work timings have gone for a toss now. Now, I am okay with them being on their gadgets most of the time, as they cannot help it."
- Gurpreet Kaur, age 8
I've made peace with the fact
"I no longer care about my parent's gadget use. Earlier, I used to get irritated and would just shut myself in my room for hours on end. Now, if we get to spend time together as a family during dinner or while watching the television, it is fine. But I do my own thing such as playing games and watching movies while they are working. I have made peace with the fact that parents cannot shut down their gadgets completely, especially when it comes to work."
- Niranjan Narayanswamy, Class 7 student
I like the time we spend without gadgets
"Before the coronavirus lockdown, my papa used to leave for work by 8 a.m. and return by 8 p.m. while my mamma used to leave by 9 a.m. and return by 5:30 p.m. After returning home, they would open their office laptops and start working again, all the while speaking on the phone. Now, with both my parents working from home, we have made a rule that all work has to be finished by 6 to 6:30 p.m. After this, we spend time with one another talking about different topics. I really like this time we spend together without gadgets."
- Aarsha Sharma, Class 8 student
They should take a break
"I understand that my parents must use their gadgets (phone, laptop, etc) because they do most of their work on them. Now, because of the pandemic, they do not have a choice but to use gadgets at home. However, sometimes I feel that they should take a break from their phones."
- Saakshath V, age 14
We follow some no gadgets time
"A timetable for gadgets use is a must. With my parents working from home, I thought we would be spending more time together. However, after the first few days, work started increasing to the point they would be working till late at night. They could clearly see my disappointment. One day, we sat down and discussed how to solve this problem. My parents decided on a timing when they would put their phone on airplane mode and shut down their laptops for some time during the day. Now, we look forward to this time every day."
- Shweta Baraily, age 15
Don't worry if you've been caught overdosing on gadgets! It is never too late to make a few changes. Here's how...
1. Fix a time to check out your social media accounts during the day.
2. Set time limits for usage of gadgets during the evening hours.
3. Delete apps that engage you meaninglessly for long hours.
4. Turn off notifications.
5. Resist the urge to take pictures of anything and everything.
6. Shut off smartphones, laptops, and tablets for an hour or two in the evening and spend time with kids.
About the author:
Written by Ashwin Dewan on 8 October 2020. Reviewed on 13 October 2020.
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