New Straits Times

No child’s play

Parents can play a big role in their children’s digital life, writes Balqis Lim


CHILDREN today are growing up with technology, such as smartphone­s, tablets and gaming devices. In this era of digital technology, children are missing out on a whole range of learning, social interactio­n, physical activities and emotional intelligen­ce skills.

According to Dr Yong Junina Fadzil, a paediatric­ian and parenting consultant, the advent of digital technology has indeed caused changes in the way we communicat­e.

“Children can now communicat­e with their parents from literally thousands of kilometres away.

“During my time as a student in the UK, communicat­ing with my dad meant aerogramme­s which took about a week to arrive or costly phone calls, which meant conversati­ons often lasted less than 10 minutes and happened once in a blue moon. Now, children who study away from home can contact their parents any hour of the day,” she says.

Video calls, FaceTime, WhatsApp and even Facebook are allowing users to speak face to face.In some families, Dr Yong says these calls take place over mealtimes, so the child is included in the mealtime discussion­s.

She adds that not being in the same vicinity physically has also allowed more open communicat­ions between the mother and child as the latter can now type questions she may feel embarrasse­d about asking in person.

However, on the downside, social and societal norms are often disregarde­d. For instance, a child may refer to her mother as first name especially on social media like Facebook when she tags her mum to a post.

“This may not sit well with the older generation and, over time, may result in erosion of our cultural norms,” she adds.


Dr Yong says that on the bright side, parents and children are now in constant contact, and this allows for better relationsh­ips.

“Parents no longer need to worry about their children’s whereabout­s as they can just send a message to enquire.

“I, for one, expect my children to message me if they are going to be back late, or, in the case of my daughter who lives in Sarawak, when she touches down and reaches her home.

“I also use this facility to inform my children if I’m going to be late or when I’m nearing the pick-up point,” she says.

Dr Yong reminisced the time when her mother called her grandmothe­r who was living in a different state for advice on recipes.

She says direct dialing was not yet available and making a call at that time meant going through the operator first.

“Yesterday, my daughter sent me an SMS asking me how to make chilli prawns. A couple of hours later, she sent me a photo of the finished product.

“I long for the day when digital technology allows for her to send me the food,” says Dr Yong, adding that good relationsh­ips can be maintained through digital messaging.


“Keeping in touch in the digital world has its benefits but nothing can replace the human touch and presence.

“Digital media has also allowed children to be in constant contact with their friends. If not monitored, this interactio­n can continue even when parents are with them at the dinner table,” says Dr Yong.

The same goes for parents who take their work home and ignored their children. So even if there is social interactio­n, it is with an online contact.


Children born into digital technology will take to it like a fish to water.

Dr Yong says that unless rules are put in place, obsessions may develop. Children and even adults may favour their online friends over family.

“Family values may not be passed down as there is insufficie­nt contact time between a parent and a child. The child may mimic what they see or hear online, while parents continue to chat with friends online, enjoying the obscurity and security that an online relationsh­ip offers,” she says.

By only observing their parents, children tend to fail in developing social skills as none is exhibited.

As devices decrease in size, it becomes easier for children to continue surfing the Net or chat online way past their bedtimes.

Children also get hooked on digital games which makes them unable to sleep when they have yet to complete a particular level.

This, Dr Yong says, may result in difficulty in waking up the next day and poor school performanc­e.

“Children are less likely to go out and be active. Folk games like galah panjang, tengteng and Batu Seremban are not played as frequently as they used to. “These games helped us develop our social, fine motor and gross motor skills without us realising it. Digital versions cannot replace the skills we learn while playing outdoors,” adds Dr Yong.


Dr Yong believes education is key to curbing unsafe Internet practices.

Rather than banning the use of Internet, parents should educate their children on the do’s and don’ts.

“Scaremonge­ring is not only ineffectiv­e but may also result in them losing trust in adults. They may then resort to going online secretly.

“Depriving them of the internet is akin to depriving them of an essential tool and skill. Educating them on the right way to go online is the best approach. Teach them to be on the lookout for online predators,” she says.

Parents should also insist that children put down their real ages, if they intend to join online platforms. This is because some platforms have safety features which prohibit minors from chatting online with strangers.

“Likewise, do not help them open a Facebook account when they are underaged,” adds Dr Yong.

Besides that, parents should enjoy what the Internet has to offer children.

“This can be done by looking up informatio­n, watch relevant videos on YouTube, engage in online conversati­ons with relatives, and maintainin­g an open channel of communicat­ion.

“Let them come to you with questions and doubts and remain open-minded even if their statements make you cringe. “When we treat our children with respect, they too will treat us with respect,” she says.

 ??  ?? Digital media has also allowed children to be in constant contact with their friends.
Digital media has also allowed children to be in constant contact with their friends.
 ??  ?? Dr Yong says parents and children are now in constant contact, and this allows for better relationsh­ips.
Dr Yong says parents and children are now in constant contact, and this allows for better relationsh­ips.

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