Kids being seen but not heard.

When I was out doing the yesterday something really caught my attention. Every time I walked passed a pram where toddlers and preschoolers were sitting, or passed cafes where they were having morning tea the kids were sitting very still and quiet. And I mean really still and quiet, and absolutely absored in what they were doing. Not a peep, no climbing out. Nothing. They were just quiet and still, completely oblivious to what was going on around them.

Down the next isle I heard a toddler starting to tantrum because he wanted something and he was told no. The next thing he was completely quiet. Dead silent… As I turned down the isle I noticed why…. just like what seemed to be every other toddler and preschooler that morning they were playing with the iPhone.

Wow. It really got me thinking just how techno savvy these young kids are today. You could see just how easily they could navigate their way around the smart phone or iPhone. 

I don't even have to look any further than our house where our two and half year old, Miss Minnie, knows exactly how to navigate her way aorund my iPad, and has been able to get to the movies since 18months old! I guess the kids of today just know no different. For many of them they do not know life without these wonderful devices that can entertain everyone for hours.

I guess what really got to me that day wasn't how well kids could navigate their way around the devices, but how quickly parents pulled out the smart phone or iPad as soon as the kids started to complain or get into things. What are we using these tools for? Is it just to keep our kids quiet so we can get on with our busy lives. Or is for educational purposes?

I just couldn't believe how many children I saw that day sitting in their prams being entertained by an electronic device. And every time I heard one complain or start to grizzle or start touching things the first thing parents seemed to do was pull out the electronic device to keep them quiet.

It started me thinking. What are we teaching our kids these days? or not teaching? Shopping is such a wonderful time teach kids so much whilst having some fun…. communication skills on how to interact with other each other, other shoppers, shop keepers…. manners when we purchase items or ask for assistance….. obedience of doing as asked and not touching things…… patience whilst we wait in line for our turn or not being allowed to purchase something straight away….. problem solving skills and maths skills when working out how much things cost and how much we can spend…. literacy skills when reading signs and packages….. perceptual skills of finding items, finding our way around the shopping centers (a huge effort for this country girl trying to manage in the world of Westfield)…. memory skills of remembering where we parked the car….. you can teach them numbers, colours, letters, matching, difference….. the list is endless. And it doesn't have to be boring. Shopping can be so much fun for a toddler and preschooler when they are challenged with little tasks along the way.

But are we too busy rushing from one job to another because our lives so busy (I have certainly had days like that)? Are we too busy, too exhausted and does it require too much effort to use this time teach our kids some important life skills? Is it just easierto keep our kids quiet so we can concetrate and get the job done quickly? Are we going back to the age old tradition that kids should be seen and not heard?

I think it is such a shame to see that the world of technology is creeping into every part of the lives of these young children and at such an early age. They have so much to learn in this exciting big world. Everything is a new and wonderful adventure. It is our responsibility as a parent to take their hand and lead them through these adventures…. even this simple adventure of shopping. So why are so many of us stealing these wonderful opportunities away from them? 

Now don't get me wrong. I think iPads, Tablet computers and Smart phones are brilliant devices. I have used them endlessly during my therapy sessions when working as a paediatric occupational therapist. I used it heaps with Little Miss Rapunzel as part of her therapy programs and getting her ready for school. And I've used with Miss Minnie to compliment teaching her how to do mazes, learn colours and shapes and now her ABCs. I even saw wonderful story on 60minutes the other night on how the iPad is being used to unlock the communication world for people with Autism;mothers are now able to communicate with their children for the first time in 25years.

I just wonder if we sometimes rely on them too much these days to entertain our kids so we don't have to? so we can keep on with our busy lives?

Please don't think there haven't been times when I have used the iPad to keep my girls settled – sitting waiting at specialist appointments (they never run on time!), that long car trip, even Saturday morning when they have woken up really earyl (yet again!). But it has certainly opened my eyes as to just how much I will be using it a baby sitter in the future!  

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