We had no idea that something as minor as this would result in us losing our child. My smiling 2-year-old was like the sail on our boats. We wanted the world for him. Just like any other parent, we wanted to give our child a comfortable and hassle-free life. We were the ‘Modern day’ Parents. Like any other mum, I would be proud when my child would swipe his tiny fingers over our smartphones. Our desire to give him the world almost cost us his childhood.

This was five years ago. I was trying to get my feet into teaching. When I finally got through, I realised it was going to be a busy year for me. With some guilt in my heart but thinking that I am doing all this for the family, we used to let him play games on the tab; the tab that we both voted to buy considering the revolution that was back then. He was just two. We were both new to this tablet debacle and when I found all those educational games, the educator in me was pleased that we are teaching our child some skills before his age.

My nine months of training seemed like a thousand years and was nothing short of agony. With a toddler at home and the stress of planning, I still remember coming home crying most of my final term. The iPad was a lifesaver at that time. My child used to sit next to me with the iPad and I did my planning for the following day.

The year came to an end and so did my training. I still don’t know how I got through that year. That summer, I sat down with my toddler one day to see what he does on his iPad. To my surprise, not only could he read words but he could also trace numbers, write them and say them. I thought to myself, not bad! I didn’t have to teach him any of this! Normally, I have seen parents give their children an iPad as a pacifier when the child is upset. They would shove it at them and they will shut up. When we went out as a family to eat, we never gave him the iPad or the phone. We genuinely deemed that the iPad was doing a good work of keeping my toddler amused and also teach him skills before age.

When he turned three, he was able to download, delete and play games efficiently and unassisted on the Tab. As he grew, he started to learn new skills from games like ‘Cut the rope’ and even ‘Angry birds ‘ which requires some type of mental calculation and judgement.

As time passed, I started to get a bit worried. I could establish that he lacked social skills. He did not appreciate the company of other children or play groups. I could sense something more serious but perhaps, I was in denial. His iPad learning took a new angle and became an addiction. We didn’t acknowledge this until we went on a Caravan Vacation and our Holiday Park had no internet. We endured some strange display of behaviour. We noticed that he seemed impassive in everything really. We gave him choices and asked him what he wanted to do; all we got from him was that he was bored. That holiday was our first reality check. I knew in my heart that I was not spending enough time with him. We didn’t think, at that time, that he was missing his iPad, after all, he was not on it all the time, we had routines in our house and we all followed and adhered to it. Why was he so unconcerned about everything?
Perhaps I was in denial.

Fast forward two years, his obsession became serious and we had no alternative but to take charge. W e decided to spend more time with him to try and get him off this addiction. I decided to work part-time to give more time to him. I took him to the parks and libraries. He used to look indifferent and bored. He did not appear like any other child in the park; climbing up frames or running around with the other children. He was missing his iPad.

During the course of this time, I fell pregnant and then miscarried with a few complexities. I was mentally devastated. While I was recuperating from the loss, my child went back into the iPad period yet again. I apprehended that some things you just have to start all over again.

We had our second child in 2015. My older one developed far too many issues in that time. He lacked basic social skills, He had no creativity or his own reasoning, he would often just reiterate what others have said to make his point. He would usually do things what other children did. His mind seemed to be cluttered with the arbitrary terminology and games of the iPad. He had friendship problems where at times he would come home crying. Although his reading was the best in the class, thanks to the iPad, yet, he lacked focus. He acquired a short attention span. He couldn’t retain information and struggled to follow two-part instructions. He was physically fit yet he would get exhausted easily. As days passed, getting him to complete his HW, clean his room and agree with us became some of the biggest chores in the house.

Fast forward 2016 Summer; we decided to put an end to this fiasco. We decided to do a digital detox OUR way. We sneaked the iPad away on the last day of the term with little to no resistance. We sketched up a plan for those five weeks. We visited the Library every week. We borrowed books and read together. He took on the reading challenge and was really proud of himself for reading a few of the Roald Dahl books. He went to two different football clubs, as a result, developed a deep interest in the game. We went to the park with a picnic almost every day and played for hours there. We did little things yet they were having a major impact on him. In the evening, he would play on the street with the other boys on the block. He also learned to ride his bike unassisted which he was really proud of.  Although his confidence was soaring high and he was enjoying the company of other boys, every now and then he would ask us where his iPad was.

About a week into this plan, we started to see withdrawal symptoms. He couldn’t sleep. He would keep coming into our room in the middle of the night. When he did sleep, he would mumble the names of the games on his iPad. He was irritable at times when he was doing nothing in the house. He looked sad, anxious and would talk about the games that he really enjoyed on his iPad and the high scores he had. We would listen to him calmly. He was worried that his high scores will get deleted while the iPad was in repairs. We used to often find him stare his bedroom ceiling at night times. We didn’t give in.

There was no way that the Tab was coming back in the family.

Fast forward five weeks and he is a now a new child. Since the start of the new term, he has not once asked for his iPad. We can see that his stamina is a lot better with all that cycling and play on the street. He asks questions, listens to our conversation and gives his own ideas. He has been chosen as the goalkeeper and plays in the local league. He is quite popular in his football club for being funny. His conversation has just about started to make more sense and his teachers have said that he has matured so much over the holidays.

We learned our lesson the hard way. My warning to parents would be to look out for signs. You could be really busy and debilitated, but believe me; the work is arduous and painful when you have to go through this insane digital detox.

Technology is useful, no dissent there but, I refuse to believe that it is normal when you see a group of 6-year-olds sitting with their screens all head down. I refuse to believe that it is normal when the only way you know how to stop your child from crying is by giving them your phone or the tab. It is not normal when the battery dies and your child throws up an uproar. There is an interesting article on The Sun I read the other day,  which tested a few families to see if the children noticed their surrounding while engrossed in the tab if their parents were replaced by strangers.

This acute dependence on gadgets is damaging for them both physically and mentally. No one has proven the long-term effects of its overuse, so clearly, we are the guinea pigs of this Contemporary age. Try unplugging your child and see the contrast. Crucial too is establishing a decent example. Create rules in the family and agree on a set time to switch off the internet. Allow no phones during meal times and no phones or iPad in bed. Identify the time when to cease. If then you see that your child is no longer able to keep their hands off their gadgets, it is time to take custody. It is time for a digital Detox, the Mum Way!

About The Author

mm

A Science Teacher in a Mainstream School in the U.K | MCA | B.Sc (Physics) | PGCE (QTS) |A Writer and Blogger

One Response

  1. Tehmina

    After reading your powerful blog yesterday i have been thinking about this strategy for my neices and nephews. I was really amazed at how you understood the behavioural issues related to the addiction and you took charge to change the things around and help your child grow and connect emotionally towards you. And how you were seriously concerned in seeing his character develop, i was really touched by your maturity and strength Mashallah. I have seen young couples who got succumbed into frustration and anger which does the opposite of what you are trying to achieve with the child. Parents have to understand that you need to actively make sacrifice rather than complain and than only they will see the positive results in their children. Anger, irritation, yelling, hitting all these are v damaging mentally and physically to the child, blaming the child for their in attentiveness and lack of parental guidance. I am not a parent but i am aware you need lots of patience, understanding and kindness towards the child. You have to understand the reasoning why they have been behaving the certain way. I loved how you connected back with your child and gave in everything that a child should get from his mom and dad. You both are wonderful parents and an inspiration for all young parents out there who themselves are lost, give in to depression and resort to violence for the problems they have created themselves. 👍

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.