A recent social media post we received contained a composite image: In the first picture titled ‘Then’ a mother is seen dragging her dirty and badly scratched up young son home from the playground. In the second picture titled ‘Now’ the same mother is throwing her dazed-looking son—who’s mid-air, and still holding on to the joystick of the video game he’d been playing with—out on his ear.
The illustration aptly sums up an everyday situation every parent is faced with—internet addiction in children, especially those in the age group 6-14. Is the situation as bad as it is made out to be or is it an alarmist view of a harmless activity? The opinion is clearly divided right along the centre, and truth—as always—lies somewhere in between.
One school of thought thinks that parents need to seize the raging ‘internet bull’ by its horns before it enters the proverbial china shop. The other opines the benefits of making your kids net-savvy(if they are already not, that is) clearly far outweigh the former view, and it is safe to look the other way—for the time-being at least—and ignore the elephant in the room.
The trouble, however, is that the enforcers are not beyond the obvious charms of the net and routinely commit the ‘crime’ which they are supposed to curb. In other words, parents are as guilty as the children when it comes to unreasonable dependence on gadgets and internet.
First, we will talk about how the children exposed to internet and gadgets can benefit: they are in tune with technology and are better placed in the 21st century job market; playing e-games may actually help kids to improve their hand-to-eye coordination; and, knowing their way on the world wide web can actually help children to get help in practically every situation.
Now, the flip side: too much of internet can alienate kids from reality and can even blunt their social skills. Health, however, remains the single biggest concern as spending too much time in a virtual world invariably leads to children leading sedentary lifestyles. Obesity and type 2 diabetes in children are the new epidemics, currently sweeping the world.
The solution? Well, going back to the basics and advocating a path of moderation in our usage of the gadgets and the internet seems to be the best option, given the sensitivity of the subject and the need to maintain a delicate balance between effective utilization and outright abuse. Here is what families can do to address the health and sociological concerns:
- Device an online schedule that benefits your children academically, but make time for a bit of clean entertainment too as all work and no play makes for a dull day.
- Take up a hobby such as gardening, which involves the entire family and keeps you away from the virtual world. Outdoor camps, hikes, and swimming lessons can all help.
- Book reading is your best defence against the lure of the online world–introduce your kids to the wonderful world of books and the parents can renew their long dormant accounts at the local public library.
Once your family gets used to the exciting outdoor lifestyle, you will begin to regard life with a brand new set of eyes, and we are confident you are going to love what you see!