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Children and gadgets

Siteri Sauvakacolo
Monday, February 05, 2018

HAVE you ever noticed the trend young children have developed nowadays when it comes to technology?

Upon entering a house, the visitor's attention will be drawn to the children's interest with their gadgets, trying to play a game or watching the latest cartoon.

This is the reality in some Fijian households nowadays and it has even reached to a stage where children themselves own electronic gadgets.

In some instances, electronic gadgets are being used as "babysitters" for children while parents engage in other activities.

While this may have developed discussion among our community, a child's right to own an electronic gadget, whether it be a mobile phone or a tablet, lies solely with the parents, however, serious implications should be taken into consideration.

The issues of the impact of technology have been the centre of discussion in the media, in churches and even in our very own houses.

One of Fiji's largest Christian denominations, the Methodist Church in Fiji and Rotuma, shared an interesting view on this trending issue.

While the church has not conducted research on this issue to be able to respond with data and reports from its circuits and divisions, it noted that every family in the church would agree that this had been an ongoing issue that was affecting young people and adults alike.

"This is an issue that needs to have some recognition and prioritisation that will allow it to be brought to surface and demands attention from proper authorities and organisations," the church noted.

"The internet is an uncontrolled space and environment that can have a negative impact on anyone's life regardless of the age group they may belong to.

"The force of globalisation demands so much from us. At the receiving end, we are expected to flow with time, to be updated with technologies and its gadgets and be aware of all that is happening around us."

The church also noted that the children in this case were the most vulnerable group on the receiving end of the negative impact of social media, pornography, internet bulling, fraud and sexually-related crimes.

It also highlighted that this was a real issue and the church believes that we need to start including this in "our theological views of society and family".

While electronic gadgets don't really come with a manual that gives some assistance of how it is used, the Methodist Church noted that a parent can advise his or her children on how to use the gadgets and accessing the internet in a responsible way.

It also noted that this does not give an excuse for parents and guardians to ignore the fact that they have an important role to play in making sure their children know how to use the gadgets responsibly.

"They need to address the many negative effects to their children.

"Most importantly, there should be a guideline and agreement in the family that will help to minimise time spent on the gadgets and increase more family interactive time between parents, guardians, elders and their children."

The church also noted that Government and NGOS, through its education system, youth program and other related ministry should integrate this important issue into its awareness programs and take a leading role in addressing it.

Save the Children Fiji CEO Iris Low-McKenzie believes the use of technology is only good if it is used in a proper manner.

She also noted that parents should ensure that when a child is using electronic gadgets and connected to the internet, they are thoroughly supervised or there are security limits or restricted modes in place to ensure age appropriate access to materials.

"Children, when unsupervised especially on the internet, can lend themselves to adult sites and potentially expose themselves to online exploitation and bullying," Ms Low-McKenzie said.

"Parents are under a lot of pressure with conflicting priorities but their highest priority should be given to their family and in particular to children.

"They need to spend quality time with their children and engage in other activities that build the holistic development of the child."

Ms Low-McKenzie said the use of gadgets should be restricted and should not be used as "babysitters" for their children.

Save the Children Fiji, an organisation that creates lasting and sustainable change for children in Fiji, also believed that no matter how busy parents were, they must ensure they spend quality time with their children.

Physical activities such as sports, movies and just playing and exploring together, the organisation believed, were some of the most important activities parents should have with their children.

"Books to read is something that we encourage children to use and have their children actively participate in outside-of-the-classroom activities such as joining children's groups and participate in other outdoor projects," she said.

"Both parents need to understand their children, in particular their evolving capacities and their temperaments so that you can plan activities around your child's interests and temperaments.

"A child can be academic, artistic or sport-oriented so in order to unleash their children's full potential, parents need to encourage children to pursue what they are good at.

"Understanding that virtual knowledge could be beneficial and constructive for the child but this needs parental guidance and supervision.

"As we enter another challenging year, Save the Children hopes all parents, elders and guardians will ensure the children under their care are free from all forms of harm, neglect and abuse."

It also noted that parents need to understand how their children think and feel and this comes with positive discipline where parents look into the best interest of the child.

Conversing with children in a more participatory manner will allow understanding to both parents and child.

Below are some important points to consider from the Methodist Church in Fiji on the use of electronic gadgets:

* Before buying gadgets for your child, ask yourself questions such as what your priorities are, whether social gatherings occupy a lot of your time and if it is, should this be minimised?

* Parental supervision is important.

* Don't allow your children to be drowned and psychologically captured by the addiction of craving for a gadgets and internet access.

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