Posted November 17, 2014, By Robyn Silverstone, Senior Project Manager
A few weeks ago, I joined my friends for a quick dinner at a trendy restaurant in Cape Town. Now most of the time I walk around without my glasses on and can’t see very much (don’t ask me why I don’t wear my glasses when it’s nighttime!).
I sat down and as I do, had a quick look around to see if I knew anyone (yeah I know, not wearing my glasses). I immediately spotted a children’s table sitting alongside their parents' having dinner. I noticed that all the children were on smartphones and iPads. I couldn’t peel my eyes away as I wondered why weren’t they doing something productive? Why weren’t they speaking to each other?
There was a lot of judging before I put my glasses on to have a better look. As I was getting my glasses out, I started chatting to my friend reminding him what we used to do as children. I use the word ‘used to’ because it’s part of my childhood. He reminded me that when we were at the local family restaurant, we used to do activities that involved colouring sheets.
So really, why was I so worried about what these children were doing on their iPads and smartphones? Now that my glasses were on, I took a better look and saw they were in fact that one was playing an educational game and the other two were busy on what looked like a painting game.
What I also noticed was that they were in fact communicating with each other about the game and then they turned their attention back to the screen to continue working on the ‘problem’ at hand. So while my idea of interacting socially at a restaurant involves speaking to the person I'm with face-to-face, they were choosing to interact through their games.
Why was I so shocked at first? I think it's because I'm still so used to my perception of childhood, which involved running around my neighbourhood, down to the beach and back home again. But if I think about it longer I remember that my childhood still had television and video games, it was just SEGA and Nintendo machines instead of iPads and iPhones.
I may have been worried that the games they were playing weren’t educational, however when I looked deeper I noticed they were in fact games that had an educational component (ie: mathematical, spatial awareness and analytical problems). I also needed to remember that games are not always a singular experience - that friends and parents can play along. In fact the technology being consumed was not being used mindlessly by the children, but in fact in a way that was healthy for their development.
After all this debate (both in my head and with my friend), I realised that the work we do at Kids Industries, developing the products that children then consume, is in fact helping their growth. The products are being used in a mindful way; from colouring games, to reading activities, to activity sheets, the technology that children are consuming is both appropriate and educational. We’re engaging them both emotionally and physically, as well as allowing them to ask questions.
It doesn't matter if the colouring book is online or in real-life, as long as it is supporting their development. I shouldn’t be expecting children growing up in this generation to understand my generation’s development. We need to be more open to the potential that technology can help with the development of this generation’s children and the future leaders it will help create.
(Also, my mom still gets her ass kicked by my nine-year-old cousin in Emoji - a game that both my mom and I need cheat sheets for in order to move onto the next level!).