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It is no secret that we are living through a global pandemic. Life, as we know it, is different than what it was in the olden days, which by the way is just a few weeks ago. There is nothing normal right now. Schools and daycares are closed. People cannot see their friends in person or grab dinner outside. All personnel, other than those providing essential services, have transitioned to work from home. No matter where we live, COVID-19 is affecting us all in unprecedented ways.
These are challenging times for all of us. While many of us are quarantined in isolation, I know there are others like me who are at home with kids because schools have closed. If you are stuck in a house with young children you are privy to a lot of fun conversations. On one such exchange between my two children, this is how the dialogue goes.
My 5 year old: Hey dada (means older brother in my native language), what do we need to survive?
My 9 yo: Air, water, food and internet.
I thought that was hilarious. They were obviously talking about it from a perspective of how screen-time has become an approved pass-time while shelter-in-place is in effect. But as I thought about it deeply, it seemed to have bigger outcomes. The way our world is wired right now, we are seeing broader implications of internet.
The following are the three ways how our approach has drastically changed of the internet, especially with resect to children. While on normal days, some of these aspects are deemed optional, now we all seem to have no choice. But we humans are good at adapting when situations change and so we have.
As schools around the country and the world have closed, kids are transitioning into remote learning. While the experience that the children have in the classroom can never be replaced, technology has certainly provided an alternate opportunity to continue with their curriculum. Teachers are able to assign daily learning plans, check on the assignments and answer questions from the students.
Due to the recent pervasive situation, families are forced to stay home. Schools and after-school activities are closed and while shelter-in-place is in effect, the options for children to stay engaged are limited. We now have working parents who have to attend web meetings while their kids are bouncing off walls. With nowhere to go, screen-time has definitely gained popularity among parents to keep kids engaged. If we pay attention to the content of the shows or the type of games that kids play, digital playtime can be quite entertaining without being harmful. Don’t forget to take frequent breaks from screen-time.
If you think not seeing anyone in person is making you anxious, imagine how anxious this might be making your kids. I believe internet has definitely opened up some possibilities here. Parents are increasingly arranging FaceTime playdates with friends or some group activity over Zoom. Although this in no way can replace in-person meetups, it can definitely add social interaction to your child’s day and is in fact a great way for the kid to learn about social etiquette using the digital channel. You can’t beat the cuteness overload of kids saying things like, ‘Your nose is on the camera’ or learning to mute or unmute during a conversation.
While this is all very encouraging, it also throws a light on the digital divide in education and our community. I know teachers and school administrators who are trying their best to make digital devices and online resources available to all families so there is some ‘level of accountability between teachers and students’. In no way, we must assume that high-speed internet is a given luxury or even the fact that every member of the family will have access to a digital device. As we tackle the health impacts of the coronavirus, I am hoping the visibility into the digital divide will encourage us to tackle digital inequity, through policy changes, and effective use and dissemination of 21st century tools.
If you are looking to add a creative tool to your kid’s digital playtime, download our story-writing app. Available on all iPads.
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