|My children at a very tender age.|
Although it could be subjective and debatable, I think those growing up in the decade of the ‘70s probably had one of the last opportunities to live childhood in all its glory, a stereotypical one that old books describe. One enjoys to look back with nostalgia at the walked path.
TV was limited by the number of channels and the hours of broadcasting which gave children a great possibility to explore the world around them and gave them the freedom to be anything they wanted, using inspiration, imagination and creativity. They could indulge in a good book, paint, create their own games, ride a bike until midnight in summer, and learn empirically how to live life to the full. Appreciate real friendship by knocking on their mate’s door and say ‘Do you want to play?’ Face to face conversations, interaction with the community or even improve their writing skills with a pen pal in Palestine!
Children in the past played outside freely, in the street or the woods, which gave them an innate common sense from a very early age, something that is being lost today. They could sort the vicissitudes and inconvenient much more cleverly. They were aware of their surroundings and danger. In psychology it has been said that a child that was able to play with ‘mud’ in their childhood was more likely to have had a happier one. It permits the contact with nature, improves motor skills and through imagination and role play, children absorb more, understanding social skills and structures.
I feel we have lost a magical, unique moment. Nowadays children in the West are a clean cut of a surgery ward. They have grown up in a super safe, antibacterial, pristine, healthy environment padded away from awkward circumstances, protected to the point that they do not know life as we knew it, with the good and the bad. Some parents seem to have fallen in to the denial world of excuses, turning their children into absent-minded subjects, disconnected to the world around them.
The loss of the sense of community has contributed for the formation of self-contained little bubbles, isolated and detached from what is happening next door, electronic devices are taking over our lives or transforming some to virtual lives. Unless children are building software, most likely they are consuming, therefore having everything done for them. Some marvellous aspects of childhood are killed in this endless hours of “e-consumption”: curiosity and necessity that could be converted into creation, inventions, and solutions.
Internet, instant communication, electronic devices have made our life simpler in many ways and in others have created dependency, emptiness and frustration. There is no excuse, for example, for parents to say that their child would not stop using the iPad. Who is the parent and who is the child? Who is in charge? I often ask myself.
A good idea would be restrict the hours spent on computers, regulate the time for playing computer games on the weekends, provide children with extra curriculum clubs and music lessons, turn the TV off when it has exceeded the agreed time. Maybe by forcing them to get bored, children would start thinking, grabbing the pen and planning, drawing, writing, kicking the ball, reading, playing their instrument or just watching the clouds pass by.