Latest Stories


Stop appeasing kids with gadgets


(Last of three parts)

Are we parents good role models for our children?

Do we text during family dinners, claiming work cannot wait? Do we complain as we try to download the latest show from BitTorrent (although it may be illegal), grousing that the Internet connection is too slow? Do we sign up our six-year-olds on Facebook, even if the minimum age is 13?

Children learn best from our actions, not so much from our lectures.

So let us show them that we can turn off the cell phone during dinner, family time and even holidays. Let us engage them in discussing what movie to watch together over the weekend and help them to manage schedules accordingly. Let us explain to them why we need to follow the law, that mainly it may be to save us from baser instincts.

No Angpao

A Tsinoy friend told me this story that was both amusing and sad. When her clan gathered in a Chinese restaurant to celebrate the birthday of the matriarch, the old lady was horrified when none of her 11 grandchildren would look up from their gadgets to greet her.

Only one six-year-old girl gave her grandmother a perfunctory peck on the cheek before swiftly turning back to her iPad.

The matriarch was so angry that she threatened not to give any of the grandkids an angpao (red envelope with money) until they “behaved like normal people.”

My friend, whose kids were as guilty as their cousins, felt ashamed, but then she asked me, “What can we do? If our kids don’t have computer games, they will be very rowdy in the restaurant.”

So we medicate our children with gadgets. We stuff them with toys to keep them quiet, to make them behave, to make them stop bothering us and others.

“Instead of talking to or playing with [our] children or helping them find something to do on their own that might allay their frustration, boredom, or whining,” says American psychologist and new-media expert Jim Taylor in his book “Raising Generation Tech”, “[we] just pull out [our] iPhone and hand it to [our] children.”

The result? Children who are prone to technology addiction early, children who are easily bored, children who do not have the initiative to figure out how to deal with negative emotions.

There is more. Children who cannot delay gratification.

The ability to delay gratification has been linked to positive behaviors in teens and adults, such as higher grades, less alcohol and drug use, less addictive behaviors.

But when we immediately give iPads to our kids to appease them, they will never learn patience and how to wait for rewards.

No respect

Saddest of all, when we keep shoving digital devices to our kids to keep them quiet, entertained, or just make them sit still, we are raising kids who will have no respect for us.

“Children may not learn that other people’s time is valuable and that parents have other responsibilities beyond their children,” says Taylor. “Children may fail to realize that respecting others can mean sitting and waiting patiently until their parents finish what they’re doing.”

The next time our children whine or wheedle, we let them deal with their feelings for a spell and calmly take them for a walk, read to them, or cuddle them.

Regain life

One way to manage technology use is to limit exposure to digital media of all kinds. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children and tweens should spend a maximum of two hours a day on everything digital, including television.

I know this is not realistic or, sadly, even possible for most kids (and parents). So let us take periodic tech breaks.

We can have an active social life in the real world, interacting with people face to face.

We can challenge our brains by doing unfamiliar things offline, such as learning a new language, a new musical instrument, a new puzzle like Sudoku. We can read a challenging book.

We can exercise more, not just cardiovascular or strength training, but also meditative ones like yoga.

We can eat better, incorporating fish oil or other sources of omega-3 fatty acids in our meals.

We can disengage from the virtual world for a while and live in the flesh-and-blood real world:  bike in the park, visit a museum, walk the dog around the neighborhood.

Otherwise, the price we have to pay may be too high. In her book “Distracted,” American journalist Maggie Jackson puts it poignantly.

“What stories are we weaving as we look to the machine to comfort and transform us—indeed, to be a part of us?  Within this messy convergence, we are on the brink of redefining humanity, but in ways that ultimately may impoverish us. In a distracted time, our virtual, split-screen and nomadic lives nurture diffusion, fragmentation and detachment.

“We begin to forget how to pay attention to one another deeply and begin to attend more to fallacy and artifice. Trust, depth of thought and, finally, a certain spirit of humanity begin to be lost.”

E-mail the author at blessbook@yahoo.com.

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

More from this Column:

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: Children , column , electronic gadgets , Learning , queena n. lee-chua

Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
  1. More legal woes for Cedric Lee
  2. Kim Henares needs a reprimand, says Cayetano
  3. ‘No real progress in PH if dynasties not dismantled’
  4. Massive infra spending set
  5. OFW brings MERS virus to Philippines
  6. DOJ to NBI: Arrest Cedric Lee, 4 others
  7. Cardinal Tagle to faithful: Join politics to clean it
  8. Estrada, Gigi Reyes denied access to evidence from other respondents
  9. Thoughts on Holy Week
  10. Lacson’s wife loses diamond earring to thieves but recovers jewelry quickly with police arrest
  1. Suspect in Vhong Navarro mauling tries to leave PH
  2. MH370 co-pilot made mid-flight phone call – report
  3. Netizens cry: 6/55 Lotto was rigged
  4. I’ll follow my conscience on Estrada, says JV Ejercito
  5. ‘Wife of Jesus’ theory papyrus not fake – Harvard study
  6. Fr. Suarez says last Mass on Easter before returning donated land to San Miguel
  7. Gay college instructor arrested for oral sex with student
  8. ‘King’ Yabut and I: Driver bares Makati dad ‘abuses’
  9. It was difficult having Japanese blood
  10. Palace: We can’t blame increase in population on Vitangcol
  1. KL confirms Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 ended in Indian Ocean
  2. MRT passengers pass the hat for 6-year-old Ashley
  3. Pork payoffs to newscasters Erwin Tulfo, Del Prado, others bared
  4. UP back on top as ‘average’ student aces bar
  5. Rookie, lady cops lauded for quick response to MOA heist
  6. Model Helena Belmonte wished ‘to slash her wrist and hope to die’
  7. Malaysia averts another air tragedy; pilot lands troubled plane safely
  8. Revilla says he was joking; Lacson stands by his story
  9. Revilla ‘consulted’ Lacson on how he evaded arrest
  10. Police rule out foul play in Helena Belmonte’s death as boyfriend is ‘traumatized’


  • Moderate earthquake jolts southern Iran
  • DOH asks co-passengers of OFW carrier to test for MERS-CoV
  • 5.5-magnitude quake hits Sultan Kudarat
  • Passengers denied chance to escape sinking South Korea ferry
  • Firetruck rams California eatery; 15 injured
  • Sports

  • PH youth boxers off to stumbling start in AIBA World tilt
  • Durant has 42, Thunder beat Pistons 112-111
  • Walker leads Bobcats over Bulls in OT, 91-86
  • Man City slips further out of title contention
  • Federer would skip tennis to be with wife, newborn
  • Lifestyle

  • Pro visual artists, lensmen to judge Pagcor’s photo contest
  • ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  • This is not just a farm
  • Clams and garlic, softshell crab risotto–not your usual seafood fare for Holy Week
  • Moist, extra-tender blueberry muffins
  • Entertainment

  • Will Arnett files for divorce from Amy Poehler
  • American rapper cuts own penis, jumps off building
  • Jay Z to bring Made in America music fest to LA
  • Why Lucky has not bought an engagement ring for Angel
  • Derek more private with new girlfriend
  • Business

  • Asia stocks fail to match Wall Street gains
  • Fired Yahoo exec gets $58M for 15 months of work
  • PH presses bid to keep rice import controls
  • PSEi continues to gain
  • Number of retrenched workers rose by 42% in ’13
  • Technology

  • DOF: Tagaytay, QC best at handling funds
  • Smart phone apps and sites perfect for the Holy Week
  • Tech company: Change passwords or suffer ‘Heartbleed’
  • Filling the digital talent gap
  • SSS to shut down website for Holy Week
  • Opinion

  • Editorial cartoon, April 17, 2014
  • A humbler Church
  • Deepest darkness
  • ‘Agnihotra’ for Earth’s health
  • It’s the Holy Week, time to think of others
  • Global Nation

  • Syria most dangerous country for journalists, PH 3rd—watchdog
  • Japan says visa-free entry still a plan
  • First Fil-Am elected to Sierra Madre, Calif. city council
  • UC Irvine cultural night to dramatize clash of values in immigrant family
  • Filipino sweets and info served at UC Berkeley Spring Fest
  • Marketplace