Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Screen

I was standing at the grocery store payment line and there was a young mother ahead of me. Her daughter was sitting on the cart watching a video on the smart phone. The daughter was about 2-3 years old, no more. It was the mother’s turn now and the grocery store cashier greeted her. The mother greeted back in turn and the daughter continued to be engrossed on the phone.

While the mother kept all the items from the cart onto the conveyor belt, the daughter kept looking at the video on the phone. While the grocery store cashier billed each item, the daughter kept her eyes fixed on the phone. While the mother placed all the items back onto the cart and paid the cashier, the daughter continued to look at the phone. The cashier greeted the mother to have a good day and the mother greeted him back, and still the daughter continued to stare at the phone. Then the mother started pushing the cart out to the exit and the daughter still had her eyes fixed on the phone. Soon, she was out of the store wheeling away to the car in the parking lot and I could still see daughter looking at the phone.

I was aghast and literally my jaw dropped. Right in front of my eyes, in a matter of couple of minutes, I saw how the daughter was completely robbed off her favorite childhood game of ‘Pretend-play shopping’. I know this because I have seen how my daughter can pretend play grocery shopping for hours. In the house, my daughter acts as if she is shopping for me and my wife;  and sometimes she is the cashier, taking all the items and scanning the bar code, punching imaginary buttons, taking cash and returning change or using visiting cards in place of credit cards, greeting people, etc. Not only is this fun for her, she has also learnt about the real-world human interactions. In a few years, I am confident she can do the same things that anyone is expected to do in a grocery store.

And in this instance, the daughter of this mother completely missed the whole thing. It was as if she was inside a movie theater all through. She was so much into the video that never once she lifted her head. She totally, totally missed the environment - the transactions, the real-life scenario, the greetings that was happening all around her and was so lost in the digital world that she will have a hard time coping up with the true life in a few years if this is what she keeps doing!

Pretend play is one of the most important stages of childhood. It gives children a huge opportunity for imagination and the only way we can fuel the young mind’s imagination is by giving them the experience of real-world happenings. I have been to couple of really good Pretend Play museums such as the ones in Irvine and San Jose and these have miniature grocery stores amongst many things. Children like to play forever at such places – but only if they know what they are in the first place!! 

And here, it was as if a crime was happening right in front of my eyes and I was about to shout out to the mother! The child was robbed a little of an essential part of her childhood and the mother was the culprit! The child had to know what just happened and the parent totally denied this experience just for the sake of keeping the child quiet! Seriously, these children are our future and it is parents’ responsibility to raise the next generation the right way and this definitely was not the right way!

Of course, this is just an iota of an incident. The book ‘The Big Disconnect’ showcases an alarming amount of such experiences and a trend that is threatening the entire next generation due to the digital world. To quote from the book – apparently, youngsters are having challenges in attending interviews because it deals with hours of human interaction and the teenagers are so caught up with screens now that even a 30 minute continuous interaction with another human being itself is becoming increasingly difficult to deal with! I am like….'Wow, really?!!

Sadly, the digital “screen” is actually screening away the real world from the next generation. For all the parents out there – go easy on the “screen” with your kids. It just isn’t worth it.

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