Technology, friend or foe?


For those who did A levels in Singapore, doesn’t the post title remind you of General Paper exams?

Over the weekend, an acquaintance sent me a link on 10Reasons Why Handheld Devices Should be Banned for Children Under the Age of 12. As a mum-to-be, I took a heightened interest in the article as I wondered if there were hidden substances of some sort that could potentially kill my child. On the plus side, it was good to know it wasn’t about harmful chemicals that could kill a child. On the downside, it was just such a horrible piece of article which I don’t think we should take as God’s words.

Throughout the article, scholastic references were made with the aim to appeal to higher authority and to give credibility to its argument. Fair enough. However, Cris Rowan (the author who’s calling for a ban of handheld devices for children under 12) has failed to recognised that banning these devices is going to shortchange our children in the long run. He has chosen to take an extremist view and deprive children the benefits of technology.

He has provided research evidence on how exposure to these wretched devices negatively affects children physically and mentally. However, isn’t it too quick to put the blame on technology itself? What happened to the role of parents in the use of technology? Surely these children that research was conducted on don’t live by themselves in isolated rooms? What happened to common sense?

My observations on children using handheld devices in Singapore

Without conducting my own scientific research in a laboratory, I managed to make similar observations while I was back in Singapore for a visit last year. The toddlers I met were so tech-savvy. They aren’t of reading or writing age yet, but were well capable of using YouTube on the iPad to search for their favourite kids’ programme. They knew what apps to click on for games.

Most adults would be eager to throw praises at these children, but I wasn’t. As amazed as I was, I was worried. The children were allowed to use handheld devices without any adult supervision. There was no time restriction on the usage. The devices were not put aside during meal times. Even if an adult convinced the child to set it aside, the child was quick to pick it up again much to the despair of the adult. At restaurants, toddlers well capable of feeding themselves were spoon-fed by their helpers or parents while they played games on the iPad. What happened to table manners?

My opinion

When you look everywhere to see such scenarios, it is little wonder that one would put the blame on technology. However in my humble opinion, it is vital that parents have the ultimate control over their children’s usage of technology. Children should not be allowed to blackmail parents into letting them use those devices. Most importantly, parents should stop using these devices like a dummy/ pacifier. It is not a tool used to calm your tantrum-throwing child or ease their boredom. Technology when abused, is  a foe.

Problems raised by researchers, such as attention deficit, aggression, obesity, addictions etc, are probably very real issues faced by some children who are exposed to long hours of usage. To solve these issues, how about bringing the poor kid out for a walk in the park and spend some human interaction time together? How about spending some money to get tangible toys to play with your child instead of being fixated on the screen for too long?

I assure you that my baby will be using FaceTime on the iPad from birth because the device is what helps us stay connected with our families. So, am I a bad mum for putting him at risk of becoming stupid? I know I’ll be a bad-a*se mum if I deprived my child of family time. I will NOT ban my child from using handheld devices because I know we can help him reap the benefits from using them. However, if there’s one rule in my house (even before we knew we were expecting a baby), I set the rules.


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