By Rouquia Alami
During the eighties, the concern for us young mothers back then was how much time a toddler and kids should spend on watching TV. Sitting for long hours in front of the TV was a major concern as this was linked to having negative impact to a child’s development, leading to laziness, less creativity and becoming over weight.
Mothers were asked to limit the hours that a child was allowed to watch TV and experts advised that toddlers be prevented from watching TV before the age of two.
Children were very keen to watch TV therefore social specialists gave an opinion that mothers should sit with children in order to control and supervise what is seen.
This applied also to video games that kids used to play for hours on end that led in some cases to addiction. Video games were introduced and grew more popular in the Gulf countries as the hot weather prevented kids from doing out-door activities during summer.
Although the mobiles were introduced at the beginning of 90’s but was accessible to one and all beyond 2000 and onward. The rapid technology of communications made smart phones devices not only popular to adults but to toddlers and children. Some parents believe that mobile devices and applications present fun, and give ways to learning, connecting and communicating. Most mothers believe that these devices open up knowledge opportunities, and apps teach academic skills and develop talent as well. Since technology is skyrocketing into this turning era it is reaching to no return point towards this phenomenon.
As years pass by now we grandmothers share this concern with our daughters, and daughters in law.
It is noticeable in this day and age that we see toddlers holding mobiles sliding the touch screen with their fingers and sitting with full concentration on the device gadget and others playing app games; this is resulting to distance them from social events around them. This atmosphere puzzles any mother. How good or bad are mobiles on my toddler?
According to education specialist in Information Technology and a father, Mr Kamal Jabr who works as an Inclusive Education Advisor in one of United Nations Agencies providing education to 500,000 students; when asking him about the impact of introducing smart phones devices for toddlers he said,
“Using smart phones by children as other Medias has advantages and disadvantages: first, I consider using these technologies is a must, positioning our children on the future track. The question here, what is the suitable age for using it by children. I think the answer depends on the environment where child lives, the parents’ background and education introducing technologies in early ages makes toddlers anti social and isolated from around society living in unrealistic world, and becomes virtual human It could also create health problems would visage in life since it leads to laziness and torpid. As conclusion I suggest using smart phones in the age of schools, in that age, the child becomes more mature physically, socially and emotionally.”
Experts have warned parents not to think that smart phones and mobiles are learning tool brains. Parents may be mistaken to think so. Gadgets do not help in building creativity towards toddler stimulation as the child is directed to one device and does not explore neighborhood and free thinking.
Giorgia Garofalo, an Italian young mother working in Amman as a humanitarian worker which refers to herself as Umm Yaqoub, had some concerns on using smart phones and technological devices with toddlers,
“Colorful stuff are easy for toddlers to play with, but then children will tend to act as passive receivers and they will not necessarily use their creativity skills. I think, instead of being attached to those attractive apps on the I-pad or mobile it is better to learn coloring on copybooks, drawing with pencils, use pens and papers in addition to painting”. “Some parents might supply their kids with mobiles in order to control where they are, but 15 years back this wasn’t the case and my parents controlled me and my siblings and did well without those devices. A toddler should be introduced to stories and books and work together with parents without all this equipment.” She added that” those technological devices will be introduced when my son is ready for that and mature enough to use them in a positive and constructive way.”
Analysis of the results of recent survey suggested that some parents think that it is essential to introduce those devices for toddlers as an induction to find their way as this will open up for them learning opportunities to be prepared for schools when used later on. Since technology is part of children’s daily lives.
According to Noor Biltaji her son Marwan (aged 18 months) is fascinated with smart phones she said to Arab Woman Mag,
“My main concern revolves around the waves radiating out of these devices and its negative side effects on my child’s brain and health, not to forget its effect on his sight as well. Though there’s no significant scientific study that proves a tangible link between both, yet a mother’s fear and concern persists. My child is so obsessed with the device that we can’t get through meal times without the presence of a smart phone, that makes me doubt if he ever gets to know what he is eating or even know when he starts and finishes his meal!
I want my child to practice a normal healthy communication relationship with people and his surroundings. While his obsession with mobile devices stands as a real obstacle. I try hardly to set limits for his exposure to mobiles. Despite the fact that I can control this at home, it seems almost impossible to achieve this at relatives and friends places where all limits and rules seem to fade!”
Commenting on the issue that although there are fundamental exercises on devices for preschoolers like matching figures, blocks and pictures while listening to voices and music introducing shapes when toddler is fitting. It also introduce toddlers their alphabets, animals’ voices while sliding pictures.
“On another aspect, I can’t deny the fact that I stand watching him amazed with his super ability to understand the way these smart gadgets work! This makes me look at this issue from another point of view and think that MAYBE this is the natural development way for this generation! After all our kids are the “Future Generation”.
Nevertheless, some researchers alert parents and care givers who are giving devices for toddlers for hours in order to occupy them, which need less effort, allowing time for parents. Occupying toddler in this way is a negative signal despite is a useful apparatus in some ways but may lead undesirable impact. In case it is not easy to ban toddlers from devices then time should be limited to twenty minutes daily leaving time for other communal activities.
Whether we like it or not this tool is their passport to future path, a fortune or misfortune the word for this complicated issue remains in the hands of the future.
Photo of baby Marwan provided by mother Noor Biltaji