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Smart Kids With Smartphones

Every day is a learning experience for me as I babysit my grandchildren aged 1, 1 and 3. While the 1 year olds amaze me with their newly learnt skills both social and motor, the 3 year old amazes me with his vocabulary and logic.

Storytelling is a tradition in every culture, especially at meal times when little ones need a little encouragement to eat. My meal times revolved around the story of the crow and the sparrow which went on endlessly till the last bite was eaten. Or the story of the Puri who ran away and couldn’t be caught. Or the story of the woodcutter who lost his axe. Or the story of the fat granny who outwitted the fox. Or tales from the Panchatantra and mythology that my grandma used to narrate while coaxing me to eat.

It was only natural then, for me to think storytelling was a part of meal times. I brought up my children this way and when it came to my grandson, I continued to do so. In fact I think it is far better to engage a child with a story than have him run around the house with the caregiver stuffing his face one morsel at a time. Of course ideally a child should eat his own meal without anyone hovering around waiting on him hand and foot but come on, we are in India where social interaction is endemic.

However, we have to move with the times. I found it hard to read a book, preferring to do so at night when we cuddled up in bed and after a while singing nursery rhymes became boring. Besides modern children need to be brought up with modern means. So I downloaded some Apps that stimulated some brain activity, and also encourage my little grandson to eat. After all, this was only a half hour interaction with the screen so it wouldn’t really be bad for his eyes (according to his mother) and would be convenient to have on hand any time of the day. Also it was far easier to carry an iPhone with the baby’s Apps rather than a whole heap of books and toys.

But things don’t always remain simple and with one thing snowballing into another, my little fellow began watching Teletubbies, Peppa Pig and Blippi. The situation became so bad that he wouldn’t eat a thing without the screen lighting up.

What was worse was that he could scroll down the screen and pick out the episodes he wanted to watch all by himself! And this was not all. He knew how to operate my iPhone, his mother’s Samsung and even his father’s Huawei and actually began treating my iPad as his very own. He would remind me to charge it before his next visit and there were times when I had to ask him permission to use it.

Peppa Pig and her anthropomorphic family and friends became our friends too. As did Blippi with his range of vehicles. We spent several hours watching Peppa and her family go from the Zoo to Outer Space and sang songs about trains, tractors and ships with Blippi. Unfortunately over the course of a few months, the network towers in our area were dismantled and our internet and WiFi signals became weaker. Gradually, he stopped using my iPhone and iPad and restricted his video viewing to his parents’ devices.

The other day however, both his parents were busy and their phones weren’t available. I brought out my iPad and tried streaming Peppa over YouTube. We struggled for a good twenty minutes but the download was so slow that even my iPad got frustrated. Since I have a 4G connection on my iPhone, my grandson advised me to switch the device.

I knew better than to not listen to him, so promptly complied. Alas! It was equally futile.
I spent the next hour grumbling about the iPhone, the iPad, the Service Provider, and YouTube. I jabbed buttons, scratched files but nothing happened. My grandson stared at the devices and calmly said, “I think your App is wrong”.

I was quite amazed at this pronouncement because even though he claims he has Dextromethorphan for his cough, I didn’t imagine he knew what an App was. Perhaps he was just parroting what he’d overheard some grownups say, I thought.

Since calling YouTube was out of the question, calling Apple support even more pointless, I decided to call the service provider. After ranting and raving, the customer service agent told me that the problem was with my App as the data service seemed in order. Now I was really shocked. Was my grandson a genius or was he truly intuitive like the smartphone?

As a mother of two thirty-year old daughters and a grandmother of two, Sunita Rajwade has been there and done that. A hands on mom, she has seen two girls grow successfully through babyhood, toddler hood, adolescence and adulthood; solving their maths problems and contributing to their angst of growing up with a mom “who doesn’t understand”. But now as a grandmother, she’s being appreciated for her “wisdom” and “understanding” and would like to share her experiences of this wonderful journey from motherhood to grand-motherhood.