Today was the first day for the brainy beans English workshop for kids at Educ Youth Center in Yerevan. Since there are little alternative language schools offered for kids here, I decided to register mine to this 4-week workshop taught by a British educator. After almost collapsing on the 6th floor stairs I finally arrived with my 8-year-old daughter on the doorsteps of the classroom.
While we were waiting for the class to start, a boy, same age as my daughter entered, looked around, then opened his bag, took out an iphone and called his mom/dad to tell them that he was there. Then he saw one of his friends and they started pushing each other, playing, joking, then this boy turned around and told his friend: “look at my iphone, it’s brand new, my dad bought it for me for my birthday…look I have pictures and games” and the other boy was looking envious, probably thinking how he could convince his parents to buy him one as well.
I was there standing with a stupid look on my face, I mean I just got my first iphone a month ago, a used one on top of that!
Yes, this is an important issue; lots of kids, younger and younger are getting cell phones from their parents. The major excuse is to keep in touch with them, in case something happens (a course delayed, a piano lesson cancelled, an earthquake!). Ok, I understand that this can be useful, but what about the other side that no one seems to be looking at; your child is having a full free communication with the outside world, with complete lack of supervision from you, and most of the phones have now access to internet (unsupervised access as well) and I am not mentioning all the spam, sexualized messages and photos that preteens and even 9 year olds or older kids can sms to each other just to be cool!
This is just the beginning, I am not yet talking about the ipod games, Nintendo etc…
When I was in Canada, this summer, most of the families that I visited had young children addicted to that. And I mean really addicted; they would collapse if you take it away from them, they will get nervous if an hour passed and they were not clicking on any kind of screen like little crazy, hysteric robots. It was so sad to see these kids, sitting one beside the other, almost not communicating with each other, clueless of what else to do in case the ipod ran out of batteries or they were found in a room with no electronics only regular toys. And how about the amount of time that the child is physically inactive, stuck indoors, not moving at all? How healthy is that? Especially if they are like that for hours in a day, forgetting sometimes even to eat.
Sad also to see their parents who were happy that their kids were sitting still, occupied and most of all not bothering them, not asking them to go to the park or to a friends house or to play with them…
In Armenia, the invasion is almost there. But most parents can not afford it yet, so my kids could still find friends, not stuck to their ipod or computer screen, to play with, outside in the garden, to get dirty, to sweat, to run and jump and shout.
At Areqnazan/Waldorf school in Yerevan, even parents are not aloud to use their phone inside and teachers often warn them to limit computer and TV time at home.
But most of them find it difficult not because they don’t know how to stop their children, I think it has more to do with our own attitudes: we sometimes forget that being a parent is a skill, a vocation and no one better than us can entertain our kids or educate them, not even an ipod!