"Dad, please don't delete my game, I'll lose all my high scores," said my six-year-old son as he came running towards me. Oops! One look at his innocent face and I dropped the idea of deleting the space-consuming game on my tablet. The content smile on his face which followed the episode then got me thinking.
At an age where he should be playing outdoor games he is inclined towards the digital world for his entertainment needs. When I was his age I used to play cricket with my friends; he, on the other hand, plays cricket on his tablet. Yet, I continue to let him use the digital platform for playing his favourite mobile games, watching informative videos or using developmental apps.
My son's teacher was so impressed when he told her about the different martial arts and their origin! Apparently he got this information from a game he plays.
I am no expert in parenting, but in my line of work I meet parents every week and this is an assimilation of what I have discussed with many like-minded mothers and fathers. The digital consumption of children is also of professional interest to me, having associated with appystore.in, a pre-school edutainment app for kids.
In my opinion, certain unique challenges confront today's parents, but there are also new solutions to them.
3 challenges of the new age parent
Reduced social interactions: With families shrinking from joint to nuclear families, our kids have limited interactions with grandparents and cousins. How to ensure that they learn to adjust, adapt and live happily with others? How to build social skills in them? With their grandparents living far, how can we teach them the value of social interactions?
Future career decisions: As a child, I knew that my parents wanted me to become an engineer. Does it sound familiar? Yes, for our parents there were a fewer options to think for their child. Today the world is changing at an unprecedented speed. Now, we would be happy to let our child pursue any career of their choice. But can someone tell us how will we prepare our kids for a career which might not even exist today?
Academic skills... and?: We are happy to see our kids gaining knowledge and learning academic skills. But is it enough for them? Yes, school is preparing our kids for a good career but is it preparing them to lead a happy and complete life? How to ensure that kids learn to face the various obstacles that might come their way? In this competitive world where parents, teachers and families are all supporting the child to win the rat race, who will teach our kids to lose gracefully?
I am sure you can think of many other challenges, but I believe largely that they may fall into the three buckets of social, career and life skills! My search for good parenting has taught me one thing -- it is very difficult to instruct your child to do a particular thing but it is easy for your child to follow you!
What is it that is all pervasive in your life today which has a profound impact on your child and can be used constructively? If you thought digital technology, you thought right! Wouldn't it be awesome if your child, who emulates your digital behaviour, could be inspired to learn the right things -- sometimes even in your absence?
How the digital world can make a positive impact
Digital devices as learning tools: Undeniably videos, apps and games are engaging tools for an in-depth learning experience for kids today. Recently my son's teacher was so impressed when he told her about the different martial arts and their origin! Apparently he got this information from a game he plays.
Though my son is only six, he has got friends from the age of four to 13. How? Because all his friends have downloaded the same game...
Social networking: Though my son is only six, he has got friends from the age of four to 13. How? Because all his friends have downloaded the same game and they discuss at which level they are. Don't we want our child to develop social skills? Can we help them build a good social network if their interests don't match?
Positive role models: As parents, we all want to teach good manners to our kids, but let's face it we all know how their eyes glaze over when a lecture starts. But when they see their favourite characters Chhota Bheem or Krishna talking about good values, they listen to them and try to follow them.
Build curiosity and inspire action: My son watches his favourite DIY videos and then wants to make racing circuits for his cars. He has also built captain America shields for all his friends (which are a rage in our residential complex)!
But this doesn't mean they watch a screen all day...
While I am a firm believer in the constructive use of digital content, there is a danger of going overboard. Here are some guidelines I believe in following.
Ensure the content is child-safe: I ensure that the videos or games that my child watches are child safe. I also like to keep an eye on those pesky ads, many of which are not suitable for kids. So the latest news is that I have started playing the same game that my son plays. I'm lagging behind him, but then dads love to be defeated by their sons. Don't they?
Banning digital media is not realistic but nor is unfettered access.
Manage time: I have made a time table for my son with his consent. I asked him to choose the time for different activities like study, outdoor games and indoor games. Banning digital media is not realistic but nor is unfettered access.
Be a role model: You have to walk the walk as a parent, or you might as well not bother with the talk either. Recently, my son objected that I can't stop him from playing his games when I am myself chatting with my friends. So, now I have made a time table for myself too!
Finally, I believe that being a good parent is about finding your own balance and I hope you are able to find yours too! Do share your experiences with me too!
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