Date
17 October 2017
Telling kids not to spend too much time on the computer is like asking them to be out of sync with the fashionable world. Photo: Reuters
Telling kids not to spend too much time on the computer is like asking them to be out of sync with the fashionable world. Photo: Reuters

Battling against digital toys

It is not easy to be parents nowadays: they always have to compete with smartphones and tablet computers for their children’s attention.

Over the weekend I drove my two grandchildren around the city in an attempt to force them to take a break from the digital world, to which they seem to have been highly addicted.

Aboard the car, they showed little interest in the roadside sceneries. As we cruised around Cyberport, passing along the pleasant, airy landscapes, they urged me to take them back home. We were barely 20 minutes on the road and they already missed their gadgets.

I know a single mother whose son does nothing at home but play computer games. He doesn’t seem to care if his obsession with digital playthings upsets his mom.

The mother could only keep nagging him to do his homework, but her child defiantly answers back that no one could stop him from playing. He swore he wouldn’t spend more than 10 minutes on tedious school stuff.

I wondered how he could finish his homework in 10 minutes!

But who or what could break the spell of digital games on our children?

Not even traditional toys. The traditional toy and games industry in the United States is reeling from the onslaught of smart gadgets. Toys “R” Us, America’s largest toy store chain and one of the world’s 100 largest companies, has accumulated US$5 billion in debt and filed for bankruptcy protection recently.

The effect of too much computer games on kids’ posture worries me a lot. Starting from the age of three or four, our kids are already hunching their backs while staring at tiny computer screens to play digital games. I bet demand for chiropractors and their services would be unprecedentedly high as these kids reach adulthood.

Yet, having said that much against digital games, there is no denying that the computer, along with the internet, has become an indispensable tool for the new generation to obtain entertainment and acquire knowledge.

I was very much intrigued when I saw my grandson watching an educational program about a man overhauling old cars.

It is an irreversible trend that people will increasingly delve in the virtual world rather than read real books.

Sometimes I ask myself if it is right for me to stop kids from devoting too much time to the computer. It’s like asking them to be out of sync with the fashionable world, or become an old man who couldn’t learn new tricks like me.

In short, I am still learning how to deal with my grandchildren when it comes to using digital devices.

Instead of setting a time limit for their use of computers, perhaps it would be better to stir up their curiosity about the outside world as well.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Sept. 21

Translation by John Chui

[Chinese version 中文版]

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JC/BN/CG

HKEJ columnist; art, culture and food critic

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