Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Is screen-exposure good for your baby? The Stranger in Bangkok gives his take.

Does anyone ever think of what goes on in babies' minds when they look at images on screens, be it movie screens, TV screens, computer screens, iPad screens or smartphone (which are amazingly getting too big for my huge palms to hold properly) screens?

This is actually a topic that has been (and is still being) fiercely debated and there are many schools of thought, including an increasing number of parents who apply the drastic measure of eliminating televisions completely from their homes (bravo! *clap clap, I would never be able to let go of watching my favourite Spurs play every weekend), some parents/guardians allowing babies to be glued to the screen for hours so that they have time to themselves, and some who are in between, limiting their children to "educational" programs and smartphone apps.

I am a believer of play, by that, I mean real play (not video games!) - babies touching real things, interacting with real humans, being able to experiment, imagine and finally discover for themselves how things work. That said, I am not about to start another debate on this over-discussed topic, as every conscientious couple would definitely have worked out a mutually-acceptable way to bring up their kids, including the amount of screen exposure their children will have.

Noah has been away from me for more than 2 weeks now, and there's another good 2 weeks before he returns to Bangkok. The only way he sees me now is via our frequent Skype chats, which means viewing me through a computer screen. As happy as I am to see how he looks like real-time, it does get quite disheartening when he doesn't smile at me, or doesn't respond to me calling out his name, or looks more interested in a piece of paper than to look at the screen (me).

Assuming he can recognize me, what is he thinking looking at me on the screen?

Hello Noah, do you miss Daddy, Daddy misses you a lot you know?

Why is Daddy on the screen, and not here beside me to hug and hold me?

Has Daddy become part of the 夜市人生 that I watch with great-grandma every weekend?

Is Daddy talking to me, or is this like a cartoon playing on TV, that I do not need to respond to?

Is Daddy calling me now, or is this pre-recorded?

What the h*** is going on? Can you just let me play with my toy?

Noah is just a baby. I don't expect him to understand how much I miss him, or that the person onscreen is his Daddy speaking to him real-time, but if he cannot learn much or obtain comfort looking at his loving Daddy talking to him from the screen, I have my huge reservations over the effectiveness of the so-called 'educational' TV programs and smartphone apps.

I also know that no matter how often we "meet" in this manner or how engaging I try to become during our "chats", it will NEVER  be better than 1 minute of holding him in my arms and giving him a big smooch on his cheek.

I can't wait till that day comes again.

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