I went to sleep early last night but, at exactly 2pm, woke up to a thought attacking my head, making my eyes pop right open: should my baby have more screen time??? Yes, you read it right – somewhere in my subconsciousness i worry that my 2.9 year old is being left to too much free play. Is she missing out, not on the trends of Elsa and Let it go and all that jazz, but the joy of engaging in some fascinating stories and having a bit of fun with animations, like some of her friends do? (This is very much related to an ongoing self-debate on whether she should go to Disneyland on a regular basis). Am I making her more bored than she deserves because of my belief that boredom leads to more creativity (as i observed from my own childhood and from seeing how less advantaged rural kids play). Am I hindering her development? Etc. etc. (2am hyperactive brain starting a monologue).
Knowing I would not able to fall back to sleep, I woke up to browse around a bit. Here it is, an answer from the New York Times, thrown at me by my newsfeed. Basically a Silicon Valley dad wants to re-create the fun adventures he had had during his childhood, so he built what he dubbed as a “playborhood” – “a version of American kid life featured in shows like “The Little Rascals” and “Leave It to Beaver,” in which kids build forts and ride bikes outside, unsupervised — free, skirting danger, but ultimately always lucky”. All fine and good (and I am of the “anti-helicopter parenting” camp too), except I quite dislike his misogynic view of the world where boys are entitled to, and expected to, express precarious behaviors and aggression to grow up male (Somehow it reminds me of the alpha male culture in Wolves on Wall Street and The Social Network, which the author is most likely influenced by, as a Silicon Valley serial entrepreneur himself). In addition, as most parents who commented underneath, and even the author herself, express: I will not risk the chance of my kid falling from the rooftop, no matter how small that chance is.
But judgment aside, it’s also a very interesting article that reflects the tension facing our generation of parents: When it comes to play, do we go forward or backward? Do we engineer for them a childhood reminiscent of our own – with lesser “stuff”and more authentic play experiences (I say “engineer” because a lot of times we accidentally buy too much for them – like i see myself and many parents around me doing. It does take some conscious effort to limit ourselves, especially because stuff are cheap!) Or do we look forward and apply the latest research and technologies to ensure they are ahead of the game? I am obviously of the first camp, as I express in my mini “manifesto” when opening my own toy shop. But I do sometimes wonder if and when i need to prepare for the future and teach her 21st century skills, like using tech gadgets effortlessly or coding fluently. When should all this start?
I didnt have the answer to the Disneyland and screen time question before being dragged back to bed by a crying baby. But i did go back to sleep with a comfort knowing that I am not alone. As the article and subsequent comments show, many parents, including this dad in the article, are like me – missing my own childhood fun and wishing to create that same sense of simplicity for our own children. Maybe we adults should have a playdate and “prototype” (or “simulate”) how it would look like for children of this generation to have our experience, by replaying it? Just a thought 🙂