Tech: What does your teen’s video gaming mean to you?

One of the main reasons why a parent worries about the time a child spends on video games, is because of the one habit they develop. They do not stop until they have a pair of dagger- eyes staring at them or a high-pitched voice thrown over as cue.

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X box and Ps4 seemed like a great inclusion to home entertainment when we got them. We were happy about smart phones because they have made our lives easier as far as tracking our kid’s whereabouts goes. Laptops and tablets have been absolutely necessary too for homework or math practice.

However the frustration starts when you are having a family discussion or receiving a guest and although the kids are right under your nose, they seem lost to us. They are either waiting to get back to their game or hanging their heads over a phone. We ourselves add to the disconnect problem by being avid digital consumers. Stats claim that an average Indian spends 2.5 hours everyday on his phone. In Urban India phone is inevitably the most frequent source to access the Internet. We train our kids by example.

So what do we do? How do we undo what’s already done?

Let’s look at it this way. What would you do if you had brought home your adopted baby a few years ago? The baby would have grown up now, in pre-school perhaps? I leave it to you to decide how old the child would be. That does not really matter.

What matters is that you and your children would be very much involved with the sibling. You will not be separated at dinnertime or when the guests arrive. Yet we know we would not compromise on basic etiquette, no matter how much we love each other. There are specific times when we want to have a one to one. That is how it should be now that you have owned the ‘digital bro’.

I have listed out some ideas that might be useful.

  1. We must strive not to be obsessive. You may have entered home with your phone, but stay away for a while after you do (and I am talking about all gadgets). Give yourself some space to focus on other things.
  2. Replace games of violence with eSports. Allot time for this sparingly and only when grown up members of family can be around watching or playing.
  3. Have a network with parents of your child’s friends so that you are aware of teen activity even if s/he is not a talker.
  4. Exchange notes with other parents on how the balance at home must be kept. Inspire each other.
  5. Encourage children to get outdoors in the neighbourhood without carrying any of their gadgets. You won’t need a phone to find them if they are in the vicinity.
  6. If games have so far only been your child’s thing, not yours, it’ s high time you learn the ropes too. Minecraft would be a good place to begin. You won’t be able to guide your child unless you yourself dive in. Remember you are the adult and don’t get lost yourself.
  7. Keep abreast with what’s new in the digital market. When your child asks to download an app, make sure you know what’s the experience that would be derived from it.

It’s no easy work raising children who are born in the digital age. There are several educators and researchers however who are trying hard to let our info fed digital kids keep their childhood.

I highly recommend Wired Child by Richard Freed and Screenwise by Devorah Heitner. Reed debunks technological myths and aims at “ reclaiming childhood”. Heitner provides a tech positive guide aimed to help parents to be effective mentors. Let me know if you would like me to throw light on what’s more in these books.

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