Put Your Phone Down

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The twenty first century mothers are hip, fun, dope even. Their children get to eat pizza as soon as they are 3 years old. In their compositions, KFC is written as their favourite restaurant. They are very current.

They play Candy Crush, Subway Surfers and such other games that only require swiping the screen. They are screen, QWERTY kids. They only run at PE and come back home to the latest ‘entertainment’. They are obese.

The parents will never admit to that. My kid is chubby, not fat. They will shed it off as soon as they are 7, latest 10. Ni kula anakula vizuri. The appetite is very healthy at this stage. This information drawn from a Young Parents Facebook group.

Not wrong but maybe floppy. Besides, the cucu will come threatening to slit the neck of the mother especially for not feeding their grandchildren if they are skinny. Kwani pesa anapeleka wapi yet the son provides?

They are dressed in little dresses or skirts without stockings then paraded in towns as if they are in a competition. If they cry hard enough they get a dab of makeup and jewellery to go with their outfit.

Did I mention they are taken to cinemas to watch animations such as The Emoji Movie, Moana and Coco? They live a rosy life punctuated with sophistication as they need to be posed on social media on a basis.

From the moment a baby is brought into this generation, they are turned into puppets by their parents for the audience that is the world through social media. Captions cute, my gem, little angel tagged to several hundred.

I don’t have a problem with tiny girls and boys enjoying the ‘ultimate’ lifestyle in their better days. What could be bothering me is the interaction factor and bonding they miss in exchange for their parents’ instalife.

We are constantly on our devices. Mobile phones (wait, are these the same as smart phones?), video games, laptops, iPod’s, iPads, computers, you name it. It goes without saying that we are living and thriving online.

I enter a matatu, I’m in a rush to join my father and brother at Sir Ali Muslim grounds for a fun day. The matatu is full and I’m sure I would stand until I get to town. A man exits and I get myself comfortable.

On the window seat (always a jackpot), a little girl sits on her mother’s lap. She’s wearing a frilly pink dress with white lacing. It is Sunday and I could picture her picking this particular dress excitedly in the morning.

It takes me a few minutes to realise that there is something wrong with their relationship. The mother is on her big smartphone tapping away. The daughter is calling out to her(she speaks English) but is shushed.

A few minutes later, the little girl cries joyfully.

“Mum! Mum! I want to tell you something!”

“No, you will tell me when we get home,” the mother’s grim voice returns.

I have a business of minding my own nothings especially in a place such as a matatu which is as public as it sounds. I eagerly wanted to hear what she had to say. There is so much to learn from children, don’t you think?

Okay. I may not know much about children as I cannot brag owning rights over any but wait? Why would you make your child wait until you get home to hear them out? Isn’t that insane and outwardly selfish?

Children have a tendency to forget and fast. Their brain connections are still in the process of forming and hence not many things are retained. They need constant reminders to keep their memory fresh.

If this child fails to get that information through to you the moment they receive it, how do you expect them to have an idea of it hours later? That is torturing their systems to work beyond their means.

For all I know, whenever you are going somewhere with them you should point out new things and listen when they notice something. Correct them if they are wrong on the word and answer their questions.

A mother is on her phone. Her son is tugging at her skirt for her attention. There is a look of worry on his face. He might have wanted to ease himself or know more of his surroundings or point out danger.

“Wait for your father!” Came the stern reply from the mother who did not look down at her son. Why?

I cannot disagree that technology comes handy as an aid to their learning. What we should not do is abandon our parental responsilities for the total empowerment that comes with the internet.

I can only pray that the children of this generation don’t fall into depression as they grow up because they cannot be tended to by their parents. That their parents are not out working for fresh bread but instead caught up on their gadgets.

My heart mourns for the day a little boy or girl will run to either the mother or father asking to be taught something. The tech savvy, I-am-online parent will turn to their devices as they are too busy to impart skills.

“Johnny, that is not how you tie your laces! That knot is very loose. Watch this YouTube tutorial and do it right.”

“What do you mean you don’t know how to count? I showed you the video the other day Jenny! That girl is younger than you yet she gets to 50.”

That day is closer than you think.

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About Rehema Zuberi

Teller of 'taboo-d' tales.

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