Wednesday, December 28, 2011

How it feels to be Technology FREE

Blogging was one of my top priorities when on the computer. As my little guy is growing into a little big guy (Mashallah) we are spending more time together. In the past months, specifically after Ramadan we have focused on adding to and making some changes to our daily routine.

One of them being the no technology rule. This includes: computers (yes youtube), cell phones (yes Iphone applications) and any other forms of digital or electronic toys/activity. Alhumdulillah the transition was easy for us because technology was never a big part of our lives. However it proves to be difficult at times. When do I find myself wanting to resort to a YouTube video? Mostly when I would try to focus on work or try and have a meaningful conversation with my Husband. I just felt like giving my child something to "do."

It can be difficult to follow thru with this concept.  A challenge that we face is when Zaki sees other children using technology, this can be tempting to him. I have given in at times because I do not want to come across as a controlling, not fun parent.

I came to appreciate this concept because I remember when Zaki was younger. At times he would not be able to distinguish what was on the screen from real life. He would equate the color purple, for example with Barney. He must have only watched it less than a handful of times but he knew Barney was in fact purple and would point at all purple objects and say "Purple Barney."

He also has difficulty emotionally grasping a story line. For example, a few days ago he was really sick with a fever. I thought we could give him some TLC and watch some Zaky the Bear. We borrowed the DVD from a friend and excitedly cuddled on the couch to watch it. About 15 minutes into the movie he stopped paying attention. Just as my little guy was tuning out Zaky the Bear was on his "adventure". He was actually saving the day, But my little guy could not understand it. He was worried that something would happen to Zaky. He would ask me "Mama, what happan Zaky?" and be very sad. We quickly scrapped that idea and instead had some TLC on the sofa while Mama massaged his sore aching body. To my surprise, this is all the TLC he needed.No activities required and to his little hearts content.

Now how a child reacts will vary from child to child. This is depending on how much your child has been exposed to technology from a young age. It has not been a big theme in our lives so that is probably why he is aware of his feelings towards the characters. In his mind, it does not make sense but is still entertaining enough to sit thru.

Over time I really started seeing the fruits of this approach. In fact, with my mornings away from the computer. When I would be on the computer for a few minutes, it would turn into an hour. I lost the concept of time and am happy to say I am accomplishing more. I am caught up with work and much more organized. I can think clearly, this must be because I am not multi tasking. My memory is better and I am focused. Alhumdulillah.

I still have to check email for work purposes but I have schedule times for when I do this. These times are when my little guy is preoccupied with another activity. I feel as a parent, to be effective I have to practice what I preach. If I expect my child to follow thru, I have to follow thru first.

In our home story time consist of objects and songs. I noticed a change almost immediately in his attention span. I am sure if he was watching YouTube or even Movies (even the Islamic ones) the story time would be boring for him. It would be nothing exciting and my singing would not compare to the singsong voices emitting from the screen. I see his reaction to story time and it is an exciting one. He has learned the words, this has helped his memory. He is sitting still and listening carefully without fidgeting. Alhumdulilah.

He has at times himself filled his days with creative play- some of which even surprises me. I noticed he is more engaged in the other activities we do. I often find him self soothing and playing by himself. One of the first post I wrote in my blog was about a child taking pleasure in their environment, Why cant we just BE. I believe more so in the theory because the changes I have seen in front of me and the other children we interact with that practice this concept. I can't deny the differences even the differences I have seen in my own child.

When I explore what our reasons are to follow this concept, a lot comes to mind. We are not going technology free for religious reasons only. We do it to cultivate his imagination on a different level and to preserve his health. There are numerous articles and studies that talk about the neurological affects technology has on children. Did you know this can effect the eye sight and the ability to distinguish sounds? There is a decline in auditory sensitivity. The issue is that actual content is only a small part of of media. And what about the rest? Do we even know the answer to this?

Some may consider this concept ancient and not modern enough. If that were the case, then employees of technology giants like Apple, Google and Yahoo would not support this approach but they do. In fact, the chief technology officer of Ebay supports this concept. Even those surrounded my technology see the benefits in this.

I hear parents describe their children being "glued" to the t.v. Parents of older children even say it can interfere with school work. I realize it is extremely difficult to grasp this concept. It is easy to defend the other side of it. This is because most of us have not experienced or really given this a chance yet. Some of us don't want too, some of us do not know where to start, some of us easily give in. We all have our reasons. Every family needs to do what works for them. I am sharing our journey so that others may benefit.

Although this is not a new concept, for many parents this may seem radical. Parents argue that the world is advancing and we expect our children to go at the same pace. They also talk a lot about the future, "what will you do when he is older?." These statements give me something to think about. To answer them bluntly, we have a plan of when and how we will be ready as a family to deal with this once the formative years have passed.

Some say things like  "you did everything and now you will not let your child do it." I will say it now, I want better for my child than what I have. I am 25 years old but still remember jingles, ranging from the Kit Kat bar, Double mint gum and Jenny Craig commercials. I can even remember images as far back to Inspector Gadget, don't get me started on the tune- can't seem to erase that one from my memory.

If you ask me to produce a mental image of any Bollywood star at any age in their life, I could do it. I remember Salman Khan's mullet, Shahrukh Khan's shaky voice (from the movie Daar) and Sridevi's outfits and even when Amitabh Bachan was young! This information is useless to me now, it does not help me and I do not consider it productive. Yet, I am letting these jingles, images and commercials live rent free in my brain.

I see the benefit of this concept now seeing it apply to a child and adult (myself). What I have learned most is that a child needs to be a child.

Check out this survey, the iPad and iPod Touch are the No. 1 and No. 3 gadgets that kids age 6-12 want, according to Nielsen.

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