An open letter to parents of kids going to school

“Let them into your world”

‘Hey Anna, are you done with your tablet? Can I have it back please?’. ‘Hey Paul, can you stop playing with my phone please?’. ‘Hey Anna, did you take a five minutes break as promised between those videos you have been watching on YouTube?”.

Anna is 8-year old and Paul has not turned 4 yet. The requests are from their mother and are endless. Parents do struggle to get the attention of their kids, day in and day out. Kids most often don’t hear them. They are in a different world altogether – a world that is exciting, exhilarating and that can entrap them for hours without a recourse. It will be difficult for them to escape from all that to understand the physical world that their parents want them to.

There is plenty of statistical data or with any of the reports that keep getting broadcasted on TV channels asking parents to reduce the screen time for their kids. I don’t have any intention to bore you with that. But then they don’t tell you how you really can make it happen. They do offer some tips, but will be a generalist tip that may work or not for you.

I will try to elaborate on some tips and tricks that worked for me. You will see how those tips and tricks can be adapted for your unique situations. But first some effort is required to build the foundation for a mindset that is required to make such adaptations possible.

First thing first. Acknowledgement. You have to acknowledge that kids are smarter with many types of handheld devices than you are. You have to acknowledge that they are capable of doing efficient searches on anything they want to ‘know, – not to ‘learn’ specifically. You have to acknowledge that the apps they use do have many things under their hood to keep feeding more of the same content to watch or listen or interact. Only the tiring eyes or hands can make kids stop in the end – acknowledge this too.

May be that you are already aware of these things. May be that you are aware, or not, of coping with it. But, the central to the effort has to be finding a way to start pulling the kids away from their virtual world with some external stimuli to push them into the world that is real and to the world that may seem chaotic for them to understand. Snatching the devices off their hands or restricting their usage may not help. Disciplining your minds to find a push-pull strategy with an external stimulus for both you and your kids will!

Second thing. The Learning curve. Allow me to elaborate. We need to start acknowledging this as it seems to go many a times unnoticed. All kids have got some cultural background that have enabled them to learn, but a bit differently from others. Just because you are a parent from a specific culture living in the same cultural environment, will not exclude you from the perils that parents who live in a different cultural environment experience. You may experience to a lesser extent, but nevertheless you will.

When cultural upbringing at home clashes with the environment the kid is growing up or exposed to, the conflicts arise – both for the parents and for the kids. Unless you acknowledge this, you are susceptible in fail in your efforts.

This leads to the third thing that you must be cognizant of at all times. Learning is happening everywhere around. Gone are the days when you believed that your kids learnt everything from the school or from those that they were associated at the school or in your neighborhood. It is something that the technological world they are living in or the social media that you all parents decry as the number one headache to pull your kids into your world. To counter that you need something solid.

It is called Trust and Trust with kids works bit differently.

Kids look up to you as a person who they can rely upon to satisfy their basic needs first – like hunger. That’s in their DNA and varies with the way in which you have showered your love to that little bundles of joy that arrived in your life at various points in your parenthood – be it be the first one or the one in the midst of the other ones. They know that ultimately the love that binds you two together is malleable and will figure out a way by either watching you and watching others behave with you or interact with you. This observability aspect is from the pre-internet era. Technology did not play a part there.

I welcome you now to the post-internet era. Their observability horizon has far exceeded the physical limitations they once had in and around schools, in around their homes or around their friends. It expands now to other regions through social media connections and through the virtual world that they get drawn into prior to an understanding of the social media. What we once believed Facebook as the major social media to shield the kids from, is no longer holds good. There are many such Facebooks! You usually hear about them many months later after your kids have started using them. It may be too late by then. You have let your kid slip into a world that is more attractive and less confronting than the one they are living in surrounded by you and your understanding of the world that they are going inherit.

How do you stop such a slide or how do you know that they are about to slide into that without their knowledge? Merely having an access to their devices through the passwords they use will not work. They are capable of hiding many apps in your plain sight and you may not even realize sometimes that they are apps. There are ways to completely hide them from the prying eyes of anyone.

Please don’t become impatient yet to know more on coping. My take on this situation was necessary for me to carve a way to open up your minds to follow my thoughts by way of bringing together a multitude of technology nuances first, before attempting to provide the tips and tricks that can work. Tips and tricks might not work if you had skipped reading my precursor and don’t work entirely on their own. You have to package them together depending on your own unique situations. I am helping you to develop such capabilities.

I will lay out the tips and the tricks to increase trust levels in Part 1. I will lay out the tips and the tricks to reduce the screen times if your kids have already been subjected to device obsession in Part 2. Part 3 will cover some of the activities to slow the time down.

The way to come out on top is easier than you think. The secret is to let kids have choices and not bribes. Bribing aids short cuts on both sides taking both sides down the slippery slope, but providing choices aids learning – learning to understand how a relationship can be built without fear and develop a growth mindset at the same time.

Without trust, the growth mindset is slow to develop and without growth mindset, the trust is slow to develop. Trust and growth mindset are partners in developing the learning mindset and to motivate learning. Take care of technology to assist the process than to desist. Once you have this under the wraps, you will see kids unstoppable to embrace anything that is thrown at them and the devices become their slaves to do that than vice versa.

Knowingly or unknowingly, whether it is our own selfishness or not, we have ushered in a world of instant gratification and a world rich in entertainment. Whether you like it or not when I say this, this is the truth of the 21st century and will remain so for a long time. However, they serve as boons than banes only if you know how to capitalize on them. For most, it remains as a bane than a boon. It will remain so unless the community understands technology to deliver the way the members of its community can understand. It is not easy as technology will always be viewed first to entertain then to educate.