Don't let social media steal their childhood

Posted by ~Summer~ on February 20, 2019
in , ,

You probably know by now that I am quite against the idea of kids using electronic devices at a young age. Well, I even went on national television to voice my views as a mum because I truly felt so strongly about kids getting addicted to smartphones nowadays.

We don't own an iPad yet and none of the kids have their own phones yet. They also don't really get to play with our phones and they don't play any video games too. The eldest uses my laptop only when she has to surf the internet or visit one of the school portals to complete her home-based e-homework. Wait, but do we watch TV? Yes, we do and we watch plenty of it, especially on weekends. It's usually a family movie, documentary, cartoons or YouTube videos that are kid-friendly. We also go to the cinema and arcade so I can't really say that my kids are totally free of screens in their lives. The important thing is, for now, we watch and do everything together.

Does it sound like my kids are deprived? I don't think so and on the contrary, I think they are very blessed. Does it mean they don't know what is happening in the world? No, we talk about current affairs often and we share interesting news with each other too. Does it imply that they don't know what is social media and are not well-connected with their friends? Well, they do know what is social media but I hardly think that should be a determinant how popular they are or how many good friends they have.

At the start of the year, my eldest came home and told me about this conversation she had with her friends in school.

Friends: "Are you on social media? Instagram? Facebook?"

Angel: "No, I don't have a phone. And our family doesn't own an iPad too."

Friends: "Wow, your life is so sad."

Yup, that came from a bunch of 9-year-olds, mind you. When I first heard about it, I was a little shocked because I didn't expect that kind of comment from kids of this age and of course, I didn't think that they would be discussing about this in school either. It turned out that a good handful of her friends were already active on social media as early as lower primary and have accounts to boast about, some even with a considerable following and number of posts.

At her birthday party last year, some of her friends - who came from different schools and didn't know each other - were exchanging accounts so that they could follow each other. They also took wefies and posted them up promptly too. It did make me wonder if I was depriving my child of an opportunity to get closer with her friends and if I was taking a step in the right direction to be so firm about the usage of electronic gadgets in our home. I mean, I don't even try to use my phone too much in front of the kids. Why should I? At mealtimes, the strict rule in our house is no phones are allowed unless in the case of emergencies, even for the busy navy hubby. We do get the we-time and me-time after they go to bed but when we are together with them, shouldn't we really be together?

So I did a little digging and it shocked me to see how rampant it is for kids of her age to be active on social media these days. I saw how some of them were spitting vulgar language in their photo captions, I saw how it makes them compare to see who is the prettier one or which is a better filter, I saw how they uploaded selfie after selfie, I saw how some of them were just totally glued to their phones when we were at gatherings and the moment they had any free time, they whipped out their phones and started scrolling aimlessly or playing games.

Is this how our kids will bond with their friends next time,
over apps, wefies and games? Will outdoor trips,
playing catching or just getting off the seat
to run around be a thing of the past?

Maybe you can say that I'm over-protecting my kids and sooner or later, they will be exposed to all the vices in the world. Maybe I'm depriving them of what could be a good source of not just entertainment but knowledge too for them. Maybe I'm being too unyielding and when the day comes when they can burst out of my bubble, they will be hungry to make up for what they've missed. Maybe, just maybe.

My hope is that when the day comes, I have taught them well enough for them to know what is right and wrong, good and bad. That they will have the autonomy to discipline themselves and be able to put away those beeping devices to have a good meal with their family. That they will remember that a trip to the beach where we look for crabs, mudskippers and fishes is more colourful and enjoyable than a game of Candy Crush (or whatever game is trending then). That they will always love going to the library and picking up a book to flip the pages and read rather than depend on ebooks. That it's more fun to step into the kitchen to help me prepare lunch than play a round of Cooking Mama. That playing board games - where you get to roll a dice and move your token - with their siblings beats playing any video game on their own. That they will still love going for strolls in the park rather than stay in their rooms to surf and scroll. That they will have understood the importance of honesty and be able to share things openly with me and not hide under the covers. That they will realise while social media is fun, interesting and even liberating when used appropriately, it doesn't impact the quality of life and will never be able to replace being together with family and friends.

So I cautiously asked the big girl what her reply and thoughts were after that conversation with her friends. Did she think she was sad, or at least affected by the trend? Did she feel hurt? Did she feel the temptation? Did she concur with what her friends said?

She looked earnestly at me and said "No, I don't think I have a sad life, Mama. I told my friends I have Meimei and Didi to play with me after school and that my Papa and Mama take me out every weekend to play. I come home and you are home. I have a lot of things in my house to play with."

It was like a phew moment for me.

Intrigued, I asked further on how the conversation went after that and what she said made me feel very emotional and affected.

"Many of my friends said they have no one to play with them. Their parents are working and are not home. And a lot of them said that their siblings are either too grown up and don't want to play with them, or too little and can't play with them. I am lucky to have my brother and sister. And you and Papa."

*tears in eyes* How thankful I was to hear that, how privileged I am to be a stay-at-home mum and how glad I am to know that despite all the squabbles and fights these three have incessantly, they do love each other dearly. We are not deprived and we don't lead sad lives, thank you very much. On the contrary, we are thankful to be so fortunate and we try our best to make each day a happy one.

Dear Angel,

You are an awesome big sister and it's nice to see how you love your siblings and dote on them. They look up to you so much and follow you in everything you do, which explains why it's so important for me to instill the right discipline in you. 

I love seeing how you love to read all kinds of books, how you aspire to be an entomologist, how you love nature and wild life, how you get excited every time we go to the beach and always go hunting for animals and insects, how you love to get outdoors, soak in the sun, explore the world and go on adventures every now and then. I hope this passion of yours will never change.

Thank you for being a responsible, independent and mature girl. It's heartening for Mama to see how you are wise for your age and instead of being envious of your friends, you are contented with what you have. You are the one who rejected my offer of giving you extra money to go to the bookshop to get something you like. You are the one who would give up your savings and ang pow money for me and Papa. You are the one who's been coming home on your own after school since lower primary and this year, you've started bringing your little sister home safely too.

I want you to know that social media won't determine who you are as a person. It doesn't matter how many followers you have or how many likes you get, all this will not affect how kind, how nice or how good your heart is. You gain popularity not through nicely posed selfies or half-true captions, but through your disposition as a person. Be there for your friends when they need you, help those who are in need, comfort those who are in tears, share the joy with those who achieved victory, be a listening ear, be sincere and faithful, be what it takes to be a true friend, be the real you. And I promise, you will find a social circle that you belong in and over time, you will forge strong friendship and create ties that will last you for life.

Life is about experiencing the moments with the people we love, not broadcasting those moments to the people we know.

I hope you will remember that. Social media is a trap too easy to fall into, and even Papa and I will do so at times. That is why it is so important for us to give each other a nudge, to remind each other, to be here for each other. Thank you for always being the one who tells Papa "No phones, please" when he takes his phone out while eating. Thank you for not demanding or even asking for a phone even when some of your friends already have one. Thank you for reminding me of the pure innocence and happy moments of growing up, something which I hope will stay around you for a little while longer. 

Childhood is fleeting and only happens once, let's not allow the joy, fun and simplicity of it to be stolen away.

Whatever you do and however it gets, remember that we are always here for you. Together, remember? We gave you wings so that you can fly. One day, you will soar high up in the sky and even then, we will always be here watching you, rooting for you and believing in you.



  1. Just love the way you bring up your children. They are blessed!

    1. That is very kind of you to say, thank you! I think I am the blessed one! 😀


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