From Analog To Digital

Macadamia and Pecan are having their summer holidays now. I have a week more of school before we break for the summer as well.  I’ve been casually talking to the kids at school about how they intend to spend their summer holidays and it did not come as a shock at all that more than 95% of them intend spending their summer holidays playing video games, playing computer games, watching movies, playing with their PSPs or their X-Box 360s or the Wiis.

If one were to casually compute the amount of time kids nowadays spend staring at some electronic screen or the other, the answer hits us pretty much like a megaton truck would.

I took a trip down the memory lane a couple of days back and realised that our childhood days had been so straightforward and uncomplicated. One could attribute it to the fact that technology was not as advanced then as it is now. True. During our childhood days, summer holidays meant hanging out with friends, playing cards, playing board games and such. Once the rains set in, the fun factor would increase manifold as we would all set out on the roads armed with paper boats which we would have spent the afternoon making. Evenings would be spent chatting with friends or just going for a walk or going shopping with friends.  Yeah, we did have TV time or movie time back then but it was quite minimal. In short, life was a lot slower then and people did pause more often to actually enjoy the smaller pleasures of life.

Many schools now have in place a system, wherein children need to use laptops or IPads for most of their school work.  Macadamia, for instance, has to have her laptop and carry it to school and back every single day. Most of her homework gets done on the laptop. Smartphones are the order of the day.

Their lives are increasingly being “ruled” by electronic screens. At any given point of time during the day, for a major part of the day, children are found with their eyes glued onto one screen or another.  Electronic screens and gadgets are being relied upon more and more as a means for children to keep themselves occupied and “up to date”. I’m not against technology or technological developments but as a parent, it is indeed bringing forth more questions and issues than quelling them.

The world of today is becoming increasingly digital and for us, as people and as parents, the questions that come up and the war that rages within our minds is one of maximising the potential of the rapid technological development that we are witnessing on one hand and the need to actually slow down and try to preserve the pleasures of slowing down a bit.

Pecan has been requesting that he be given a cell phone, for quite some time now.  The said “phone giving” hasn’t happened yet but it is not as much him asking for a phone that affects me as much as him coming and saying to me “all my friends have phones but I don’t and it really makes me feel left out”. It did not quite stop there. “When I do get a phone, can I get a Smartphone?” he asked, the other day. Come to think of it, the electronic age is taking us over with such ferocity and completeness that children now actually view electronic equipment as an indicator of personal worth (in their own eyes and in the eyes of their peers).

I often keep nagging Pecan about the amount of time he spends on the computer or on the iPad. Almost invariably, he retorts saying “it’s school work, mummy”. It is the internet for practicing math problems, it is the internet for reading books, it is the internet for checking spellings, grammar and pronunciations. What happened to good old books, dictionaries and a book and pencil for practicing things like Maths? Those days are fast slipping away pretty much like a handful of sand seeping through our fingers.

If we were to actually keep count of the number of times we ourselves whip our Smartphones out every single day, for most of the time, it is an attempt to either check out emails or check what’s happening on Facebook. There is a definite feeling of power that registers in some miniscule manner in some small part of our brains that at that particular instant, we quite literally hold the world in our hands in terms of communication and connectivity with just about any corner of the world, however remote the place may be.

I, for one, do make a sustained attempt (on some days) to try and slow down, to take in the abundance that nature has to offer and to instinctively slow my mind down so as to unburden it from the fast paced life that technology throws at us.  We do try this with Macadamia and Pecan as well and many times, I’ve attempted doing this with the kids at school too.  Wean them off technology, albeit for a little while, and point out to them the abundance that nature has to offer. I’ve realised, many more times than I’ve bothered to keep count, that it is not all that difficult. It is just a question of helping kids take that step towards striving for a balance in life, an equilibrium of sorts where children are helped in realising the fact that there does exist a big colourful world outside the world of technology.

I saw this magic look of wonder on the faces of a group of kids a few weeks back as they looked at the pretty butterflies fluttering around, as they saw the plants in the farm sway to the whims and fancies of the breeze. It was, for them, a spectacle, a marvel outside of the iPad or the computer screen.

With all the kids in the world today, one thing is given. They are in and will grow up in a world that is increasingly dominated by technology. There is no doubting that bit. Very soon, it will be mandatory for them to have their own laptops and iPads at school too and I’m sure it will open doors for them they have not been through hitherto, in terms of information, knowledge and access to the same.

As one of those few people in the world who still hang on the increasingly diminishing slow pleasures of an analog world, I can’t stop myself from hoping that children would still remember, every once in a while, to turn their faces up to the sky to marvel at its blueness and to still whisper in awe as they see a bird taking flight or watch in sheer joyous abandon as colourful butterflies twirl to a rhythm of their own and flutter around lazily, dispersing colour towards us.

Yes, I do fervently hope so.

Gauri Venkitaraman dons many hats – a wife, a  mom, a teacher and many more. Working as a full time English teacher in HongKong, Gauri also raises and nurtures two terrors, affectionately known as The Nutty Siblings a.k.a Macadamia, a teen and Pecan, the ten year old who behaves like he is fifteen. Gauri’s family means the world to her. Life is a lively roller coaster ride and we, as a family, aim to enjoy the ride together. http://tiny-tidbits.blogspot.hk/ is where Gauri pens down her thoughts and musings, in an attempt to preserve memories for posterity.

  • Very well said. The last paragraph is beautiful. Poetry in prose. 🙂

  • Aarti

    Hi Gauri,
    Finally I get to put “face” to a name, I have been following your blog since last 3 years and how should I tell you, there are only 2 such blogs wherein after reading I feel I am talking to myself through someone’s world. All the best wishes to yuor kids and you !!

  • You have articulated my own concerns. I also wrote about my concerns here: http://penpaper.blogspot.in/2011/12/is-my-husband-too-naive-or-am-i-too.html
    In my society I find children playing in the evening and it gives me solace that all is not lost 🙂
    Even I switch off my wi-fi often because it disturbs every few minutes when some mail pings. We cannot do anything about technology taking over our lives, but before teaching our children, we need to learn to strike the balance. There are too many things these days seeking our attention which make us restless all the time. We enjoy the small things only when we are forced to like when we are travelling.