Let’s screen in for screen time

In response to Sarah DeWitt’s Ted Talk

It feels like ages ago, but when I was pregnant with James, my second child, I had a bad case of fatigue. I felt like it plagued me all throughout the pregnancy. Day in and day out, I was tired. Perhaps it was because I was working nights at a local grocery store, often flopping down onto my bed at half past midnight that contributed to the tiredness. Or perhaps it was because I had an energetic two-year-old toddler in tow, who constantly needed me and who constantly chatted, that I fell prey to the lovely technology piece called an iPad.

If the nights go well, then I’d be in bed by 12:30 am and passed out by 12:45 am. Then, approximately six hours later, between 6:00-6:30 am, Lily would wake me up. Her father is usually long gone by then. In the early afternoons while my husband was working, my fatigue settled in and told me that it wasn’t going anywhere. According to my time clock, I still had another three hours before my husband got off work, and another 9+ hours before I could go to bed. Needless to say, I spent a lot of time counting down the hours and minutes until I could go to bed. Unfortunately, my toddler was out of the napping phase at the time, so I couldn’t put her down for a nap and then take one of my own. Thus, my solution was the iPad. I gave it to her often in the early afternoon, so I could have an hour or so of quiet time. When she started playing, I’d immediately lay down on my bed, often staring at the ceiling, eyes wide open, and wondering to myself why I wasn’t asleep already.

My inability to take naps is another story. The point is, the whole time I laid there staring at the ceiling, sometimes crying (because, you know, pregnancy hormones), I felt incredibly guilty at having to use a technology device as a crutch for relief. I felt guilty at not having more energy to spend on her. I felt guilty because I wanted to do things, like clean the house, or even get out of the house, but my body couldn’t face it. The baby was draining all the energy out of me.

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Even now, as I’m writing this, I’m allowing her to play on the iPad so I could write. I can hear her mumbling through the door of her room, the sound of her voice inquisitive. I know what she’s playing—a bubble pop game designed after the movie Inside Out.

This small level of parental guilt never quite diminished…until recently, while browsing the TED app on my phone, I came upon Sarah DeWitt’s Ted Talk called “3 fears about screen time for kids—and why they’re not true” and felt prompted to watch it immediately. In her 12-minute engaging talk, Sarah outlined the fears and perceptions about screen time for children, then weaved in her research and work at PBS to demystify the fears that a lot of parents face. Finally, she related the research on children with a very important idea—that what we should do as parents is engage with our kids about what they’re watching and playing.

Such insight on parental engagement in relation to children’s media has been validated through a study done at Vanderbilt University. In this study, researchers found that in order for children to learn best with media, such as television, parents need to engage in a dialogue with their kids. It makes perfect sense, because as Sarah had put it, engaging in conversation with your kids about what they’re watching opens up opportunities for discussion, thereby developing the child’s communication and critical thinking skills.

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Fears about how screen time might be a waste of time and how it takes away children’s educational opportunities are valid. Fears about the content of videos being inappropriate to a child are also valid, given the recent criticism of Google’s Youtube Kids web site. Somehow Google allowed a few videos “slip through the cracks” and as a result, a myriad of videos with adult content circulated the web site, causing a lot of uprising amongst adults and parents around.

Look, I get it. Sometimes we can’t stop videos from appearing on our feeds. I recall awhile back, Lily was obsessed with Youtube Kids. It was an app on her iPad, and she was always watching. I saw a few videos that I thought were strange on the app, but never gave much further thought, until the issue with adult content on Youtube Kids came to the surface. From that point on, my husband and I decided to delete the app from the iPad.

When Lily was approximately eight months to 20 months, she was completely obsessed with Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, a TV show based on Mr. Roger’s neighborhood. Mr. Rogers, as we know, have gone away to a better place, but his legacy lives on in the lives of Daniel Tiger and his friends. Sarah mentioned in her talk that what Mr. Rogers did was revolutionary—he started talking to the children as if they were there, when in reality, they were behind a screen watching him in front of a TV. He paved the way for other shows to follow, besides Daniel Tiger and the lessons about life that a child can learn by watching TV.

I wish I had shows like Daniel Tiger to teach me about life when I was a kid. Growing up, we had a small black & white television (this was, after all, a third world country in the early ‘90s) and we reveled in the television and what it offered. Then, when my family came to America, we stayed with my uncle and his family, who owned a large Panasonic television that was about as heavy as construction equipment hooked up to a video game system for their kids to enjoy in the basement on hot summer days. It was there that I realized televisions can be in color! (oh the excitement!) and how much of an entertainment experience that was.

IMG_5872The point is—whether we like it or not, we live in a world filled with technology today. It’s part of our every day lives. The truth is, many of us check our phones as soon as we wake up in the morning (myself included) and can’t stay away from checking emails on our commute to work daily. I often see many people, from all ages and ethnicities on the train with their headphones on, either watching a video or listening to music or checking social media. Technology is embedded in our every day lives, and it would be ironic if you are a person who is a frequent user of technology who revokes the same privilege to your kids. After all, what are you teaching them by doing so? That perhaps it’s something forbidden, or something that carries a certain level of excitement simply because it’s forbidden?

These days, Lily likes to play the drawing game on her iPad. She also likes to play the bubble pop games. When I’m sitting there with her, she often turns to me and gives a sports anchor’s minute-by-minute play on what she’s doing on the game. I’d often nod, smile, and listen to her words, amazed by her inquisitiveness and curiosity.

I really believe that when used appropriately, technology can be our friend. It can teach us a lot of things. Learning apps are aplenty nowadays, and as a parent, I try to choose games or apps that have an education component so that Lily gets the best of both worlds—to have fun and to learn something.

 

WARNING: price delusions ahead!!!!!

Thanksgiving is almost here. The holiday season is in full swing. A week left until Black Friday. As this infamous day draws near, I thought I should tell you about a recent shopping experience at Macys that might make you think twice about shopping during the holidays.

While browsing the store with my husband, I saw a package of Minne Mouse underwear for toddlers. I have a Minnie Mouse obsessed little girl, and I thought she would love it. The sign said it was 50% off, and on the package, printed clearly was $14.98. So naturally I deducted that it was 50% off from $14.98, making it approximately $7.50. To my surprise, when I went to pay for the item, it rang up as $26, and $13 as the final price.
Immediately I pointed out the error to the cashier. He was not familiar with kids clothing so he went to talk to a sales associate in that department. He came back five minutes later and told me that it is exactly that – 50% off from $26. I was flabbergasted. I pointed out the price tag on the ACTUAL package, and said, “Clearly that is $14.98. You can’t deny that. How is it possible that the price can be inflated that much?!?!” He said, “Sorry, you can go talk to someone else in that department.”
This made me absolutely furious. The problem was not the fact that the item was extremely inflated at the expense of the consumer, but the blase attitude of the salesperson. It makes me wonder a few things:
  • How many of the items sold at Macys (or big box stores) have extremely inflated prices? Hundreds? Thousands??
  • Do customers realize this or are they just looking at the store’s signs and being led to believe that it is a good deal when in fact, it is not?
  • Price anchoring (the process of inflating retail prices to the point where the store marks down the item to 50% or more to allude the customer into thinking that it’s a good deal, when the “after-discount” price is actually just the retail price after all) – how prevalent is it? Apparently, it’s not new. Check out this article.
  • This is clearly and blatantly a way for major retail chains to gain profits during the holidays, by playing on customers’ inability to pay attention to small details, overshadowed by their desire to shop for everyone for Christmas, that they don’t realize how much they are truly spending?
While this particular practice makes me angry, what is even more troublesome is the sales associate’s responses. In my particular situation, the associate’s “Sorry not my problem” attitude is really infuriating. It makes me ashamed to say that I once worked for Macys, way back in the day. It’s troubling that for such a large chain that prides itself on quality and aesthetics that they are not training their employees to respond to conflicts in an enthusiastic and helpful manner.
Perhaps because I’ve worked in customer service for a long time, and I’ve worked at places that have high expectations for service that is the reason why this bothers me so much. Whatever happened to the old philosophy, “The customer is always right”? In my case, I was not making things up just to get my way. My husband and I both saw the price tag as $14.98, so to blow it up to $26 and then discount it $13 is beyond the acceptable ethical grounds of retail pricing.
So this holiday season, I’ve had enough of Christmas shopping. I’ve had enough of deceitful practices of major retail chains. I’ve had enough bad customer service. Besides getting a few items for my kids (not from Macys, of course, and mainly because I want them to have a good Christmas), I’m opting to do something else. To go outside. To be with family. To SAVE MONEY. Because the holidays can definitely make you go broke. It can lead you down the road of paying back a year’s worth of purchases plus interest…and for what? For big retail businesses AND credit card companies to make money off you? No thanks.