When I was growing up, Narnia was as real as Nairobi is right now. I knew it existed somewhere. And I knew someday I would get to visit it. I had plans on what I’d tell Aslan, the Great Lion. I had plans on how I’d spend my holidays in Cair Paravel eating chocolate and having fun.
But it all turned out to be fantasy. I was around 7 years old when it sunk that Narnia was all made up. A man called C. S. Lewis had written these books and convinced me about so much. I was angry. The realisation made me hate reality. That wasn’t the only thing I believed as a child. Many of the fantasy books I read, I ended up believing.
Children love fantasy and adventure. Making a distinction between what’s real and what isn’t is hard
In the new age, kids grow up exposed not to books like we were, but rather to technology; smartphones, tablets, computers, and thus, the internet. Toddlers get access to tech devices and game consoles all day, and some even at night. These devices are meant to make them happy and involved in something so as not to cry or disturb their parents. What most parents don’t realise is that the minds of these kids cannot tell apart the real world from the world they experience with the devices.
My parents owned a phone from as early as 2000 when I was 5. It was huge and boring. I didn’t get to use it. Nor did I need to. There was nothing interesting in it. It would be on top of the table all day. Occasionally, it would ring and someone would pick it. I’d be out playing with friends.
There are many arguments for kids’ interaction with the internet; the knowledge they stand to gain, and how it opens their minds. But a child will believe whatever they see and experience so easily.
When a child grows up exposed to the internet for friendship, for communication, and for entertainment, they miss a lot of what’s happening in the real world. And as such, there develops the risk of kids not getting to fully develop their sense of the real world and interactions.
Such a kid therefore fails to:
- Express what they feel; joy, pain, stress, need, desire, love
- Be open about what they want
- Understand the importance of sharing with family or people
- Know common courtesy and the rules of social interaction
- Make real friends and build real connections
As such, the kid ends up locked in not only physically in their rooms, but also mentally, spiritually, and socially. They will not only lack the necessary exercise needed for their bones to develop, and their muscles to be strong, but also lack the understanding needed to solve real life issues.
When a child grows up exposed to the internet for friendship, for communication, and for entertainment, they miss a lot of what’s happening in the real world
We know that the internet is uncontrollable and houses has a lot of creepy things. You can and may never know what a kid has access to. They are smart and will out you in your own game.
In 2014, two 12-year-old girls stabbed a friend of theirs’ multiple times to impress a fictitious internet bogeyman. The two had read about the character on a Wiki entry full of horror stories. They could have known that all this was fake and written only to horrify and entertain, but in their minds, stabbing their friend made the character happy, so they did it.
Children love fantasy and adventure. Making a distinction between what’s real and what isn’t is hard. Exposure to the internet in an uncontrolled manner makes them vulnerable to so much including bullying and sexual harassment. But control doesn’t mean taking away everything from children. Rather, it means being there.
- Know your kids’ interests, and indulge with them in those interests.
- Guide their use of their devices by setting rules on time for use, time for family, time for physical activities and time for sleep.
- Very young kids shouldn’t be allowed to live with or depend on phones and such like gadgets for entertainment, or for passing time. Rather engage them with toys, games, and stories.
- Older kids should be made to respect rules families set on use of the devices. They should be talked to about the importance of real life interaction, of reading as a way of expanding their minds and knowledge, and of spending time with family and friends.
- Parents should respect the privacy of teenagers on their devices. Show them full trust and give them their space. But also, carefully evaluate, talk, and listen to them.
Technology shouldn’t make us zombies with no sense of communication, of respect, or of family.
There’s the phrase Kenyans like using when things go out of hand online: It’s never that serious.
Well, for us who grew up experiencing the real world, it isn’t. But for kids, who easily believe in many things including Ghosts and Vampires, whatever they interact with online is real. For them, talking to their friends via Facebook, Snapchat, Facetime or whatever, is real – like having them there next to them.