Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Living in an ‘on demand’ world

Source: today.com via Christina on Pinterest

Happy New Year! Hope your holidays were as fun as mine. I think I’ve come to terms with the fact that the word “vacation” will not be synonymous with the word “restful” for a very long time. I took two weeks off from work, and between lots of family activities for Christmas and New Year’s, we kept our vacation pretty busy with play dates and social activities.

In our down time, we tried to enjoy the winter weather and play outside with our son, but it’s not terribly easy for an almost two-year old to navigate through piles of snow with a snowsuit on and all that other gear. So I will admit that we often plopped down in front of the TV just to keep him entertained when nothing else interested him. And I have to say that he’s getting pretty hooked.

I know, I know, you’re not supposed to let kids watch TV under the age of two. But I’ve never felt like that was realistic in today’s day and age. Sometimes, you need to let your kid veg in front of the TV for a short while so you can get things done without being interrupted. Let’s be honest – we’ve all done it. Also, since starting daycare, he has been sick a lot (as chronicled extensively in my last several blog posts). When your child is sick, TV becomes your best friend.

As such, my son has developed an obsession with two big celebs in the toddler world: Elmo and Mickey Mouse. I thank my lucky stars every day that Barney is no longer popular, or I would probably have lost my mind long ago. That being said, I’ve realized that it’s easy to feed this obsession. My son is a child of the PVR generation. Between watching videos on You Tube, on our iPad, DVDs, PVR’d and “on demand” episodes of his favourite shows, it’s all Elmo and Mickey, all the time.

When I hear those pleading whines for “Mickey, mickey, mickey!” or “Elmo, Elmo, Elmo!” it’s too easy for me to find my nearest device, call up an episode or clip of his choosing and his demand is satisfied. Tantrum averted.

In my day, we had to walk five miles in the snow to get to school! No, wait, that’s not right. Let me try that again. In my day, we had to wait until Saturday morning to watch cartoons! True, Sesame Street was on every day, but you had to wait to watch it on PBS at 10 am. My parents were not exactly the kind of tech geniuses who knew how to program the VCR to tape our shows. Even if they were, I’m pretty sure they would have laughed in my face if I had made that request.

Times sure have changed, folks. That crazy interweb has made it so easy to satisfy our demands instantly. When we want to know something, we just Google it. We have an iPad, we have WiFi… ta-da… instant gratification! Now my son just has to see our iPad and he automatically whines “Mickey iPad!”

So I can’t help but wonder – am I teaching my kid that he can have what he wants, when he wants it? Is that the way the world really works? I guess it is these days… What a change from our own upbringing when we only had a fraction of the toys and entertainment and had to find ways to entertain ourselves using our imaginations.

With every new app, website or technological advancement, we as adults are enchanted and captivated by all the really cool things we can now do. I mean, sometimes I think Songza must have been designed with exactly me in mind. And I’m not just talking about widgets and social networking – the most important thing on my tablet is my online banking app. It has simplified my life to no end.

I guess I feel like mixing children with technology is a bit of a double-edged sword. In some ways, I don’t see any value in keeping them from using it as it is a part of our daily lives. On the other hand, I hope that my son will always have a part of him that will be fuelled by his imagination. That he will always see two laundry baskets lined up in a row and automatically play with them as they’re a choo-choo train. His daycare educator assures me that he’s very creative and makes up all kinds of games to play with his friends, which I love. I just have to make sure that he never loses that creativity and that I don’t one day lose him to the TV / web / video games (or whatever else is invented in the not-too-distant future).

What do you think? Do our kids have it too easy, living in an “on demand” world? Do you limit how your children watch television or use technology?


  1. Interesting take. I'm not a mom, but have been an educator of 4 to 14 year olds for the last 14 years. As technology becomes a third parent in many ways, you only need to spend a day in the classroom to understand that the effects of "instant-gratification" are overall pretty negative. But, we will only be truly privy to its entire effects when they are the generation taking care of us! Kids need to know how to communicate verbally, in writing (that is not texting) and need to exercise PATIENCE!! (which is not learned through instant-gratification). I could probably write my own blog, but given that teachers are often seen as the people with a cushy job (by most of the ignorant public), I won't start a blog, because it would be deemed as unprofessional. I'll save my blog for the book I write when I retire in 2028.

    1. Thanks for the comment... I will definitely keep this in mind and try to instill a sense of patience in my son, as well as to ensure that he is able to communicate well verbally and in writing. I don't think we can avoid the effects of technology and our "on demand" society but we can do our best to make sure other things are not lost.