So, I got an Apple iPad as a gift from Kiran for our 3rd wedding anniversary. Roughly 7 months back. No, it isn't as you think. It was a gift, essentially for me and not the husband. It has my FB and my Gmail etc. And the husband asks before he uses it. It is however a different tale with Aa. Whenever she wants it (which is every time I have it in my hands!), she yanks it from me. She screams, cries and throws tantrums till she gets it.
As soon as we got it, we installed many kid friendly apps for her. She enjoyed it too. In fact, 7 months back, she was younger and much more innocent than she is now. She dutifully watched the episode of Mickey Mouse clubhouse and was happy with just that.
I was to come to India all alone with Aa, who was but 1yr 4 months then. I was scared to death. I had no faith in my abilities to be able to take care of her and myself on the long journey. Many advised me that I carry the iPad with me which will keep the kid engaged. This boosted my confidence a bit.
However, it worked to my disadvantage. I was carrying a heavy backpack - food, milk, diapers, wet wipes, extra clothing for Aa and me, medications, 3 passports - 2 mine, 1 Aa's, iPad and Aa. While at the security, Aa would take the iPad and run away. I, along with the backpack and passport dangling in one hand, would catch her and get her back in line. Trying to get her back was not an easy task. Her screams pierced the entire area and every eye turned on me. I was burning with embarrassment (not to mention that heavy backpack adding weight on my already fragile back), when in the process of picking her up with the iPad, I dropped our passports. Now to bend down to pick passports with Aa, iPad, the backpack and my fragile back was impossible. I had to let go of Aa and her iPad.
Aa screamed again as she wasn't then adept at the features of touchscreen. I gathered the passports and hauled Aa too. Thank you for noticing that no one bothered to lend a hand, neither with the kid, nor the iPad or the backpack or my back! And I was in no state to ask for help either. Tears came rolling down - some because my back was killing me and rest because of the extreme humiliation that I felt.
After the security check, I decided I had had enough with the whole dumb thing. I stuffed the iPad into my backpack which was now bursting at seams. The rest of the journey was much much better as Aa behaved.
Problems grew as she did. She has now understood the whole funda of touchscreen and opens my Gmail, Fb, Instagram and Pinterest among other installed stuff. She even plays videos of some hindi songs. She knows there is Youtube and her uploaded videos. Long story short, she navigates through everything on that thin machine! She gets frustrated when it doesn't work as she wants it to. Now how do I explain wi fi connections to her?
Probably since a month back or so, she started using it far too often than she should. Like I said, if not given to her, she would throw tantrums, cry and be unpleasant, which she usually isn't. There were days when she ignored all of her toys - even her favourite ones - and played with the iPad. I hated to see her getting addicted to it. We tried keeping it out of sight, but she demanded her "Paakaa" - that's what she calls it. And we would relent and give it to her instead of facing a big tearful drama, followed by exasperation and spoilt evenings.
It wasn't until some 10 days back that I had had enough. That whole day she had Paakaa on her lap and songs, nursery rhymes, and videos were playing on a loop. It drove me crazy. There was no bargaining either. I do not even believe in bribing my kid. Aa was quiet the whole day, ignored me, her toys, Chota bheem - rather everything was pushed away.
I talked to Kiran and we decided it was time to wean her off iPad. We decided to go cold turkey. (It works very well with Aa. That is how I got rid of her binky habit too). She asked for her Paakaa repeatedly during the day and we told her that kakmaamu (a crow) has taken her Paakaa away and will return tomorrow. She kept asking for 2 days and both days we gave her the same answer. By 3rd day she had forgotten all about that dreaded thing.
We are in much happier place now. We have decided not to use it in front of her. We hide it whenever she is awake and just do not use it, however urgent it may be.
I have never been in favour of introducing technology to kids so early. I was/ am never proud that Aa can handle electronic devices. I hated for letting myself do it when I strongly believe otherwise. I have seen far too many kids who are glued to fancy products. Not just that, I know of a kid who has damaged 2 of his father's smartphones. I did not want my kid to turn out that way.
When I saw that it helped keep my kid engaged while I get my things done, I more than easily gave up my belief. I shouldn't have, but I slipped. However, henceforth I am going to avoid such slip ups. Now, Aa is not allowed to touch Kiran's smartphone. We tell her it is his office stuff and she is not supposed to touch it. It is difficult to keep that hidden from her. She is slowly learning... she tries to touch it and looks at me. One look of disapproval and she goes exploring some other thing.
When I think of it as a parent, I think it is my responsibility to help Aa understand what is a toy and what is not. It is important that she learns why she should respect boundaries and learn the values of things. I have realised that it is never to early to teach kids right from wrong. There is no use reprimanding them for their mistake that we allow them to make.
I agree there are times when even after best care, kids tend to indulge in mischiefs. Like the time Aa chewed at the charging point of the Samsung Tab (when I was busy with some other thing) and rendered it useless!
I do not want Aa to be a slave of technology, like I see many kids today. Even at a social functions, kids as young as 6 borrow their parents smartphones and play games. Unlike, in our times when we would be happy to see another kid of the same age.
I do not know how far I shall be successful in my endeavours. I am hoping to find like minded parents and involve Aa in real play time and friendship.
I wonder if it is as tough as it sounds?