Here’s a reprint of my Manila Bulletin Technews Blog-O-Rama column for 26 November 2007:
The title of this article is inspired by a friend who commented that buying her son a Sony PSP Portable didnâ€™t do them good after all.
This is brought by the fact that her son had become “anti-social” after being glued to his PSP for hours on end. My friend said the son was not his lively, prancing self because he was concentrating on his game-playing; he hardly talked and if he did, it was to mumble unsatisfactory one-liners.
This was not actually the first-time that Iâ€™ve heard such complaint from my lady buddies who are mothers, too. I certainly thought long and hard before I bought my son his early Christmas gift of Playstation 2 last week. I had to extract a promise from him that he would only play for a certain number of hours and his studies would still take priority. If you notice, PS2 is quite obsolete already but it is also intentional on my part not to spoil my city-bred kids with the latest gadgets, having grown-up in my time kicking ball in the open field and communing with nature in our house by the sea. If I have to choose between computers and sports, Iâ€™d go for the latter anytime.
Technologyâ€™s anti-family theme is also something I can relate to being a blogger myself. As you know, blogging takes time, not to mention uploading photos for your site and surfing the net looking for newsworthy materials. How many among us spend an inordinate amount of time on the computer and then feel guilty afterwards? It may be that we were too busy emailing or chatting on the computer through the night without knowing that our partner or child slept already? Being addicted to blog, Iâ€™ve remedied my situation by limiting the number of time I spend on the computer (two to three hours max) and as much as possible surfing only when my children are already asleep.
Various research has already shown that prolonged computer use has harmful effects, among them radiation and blurring of vision. This is not to mention the exposure to violence (such as those exemplified by certain games) which might bring irreparable damage to the barren sensibilities of a child.Then of course, weâ€™ve also heard about marriage break-ups caused by the so-called “internet affairs.” It certainly takes a lot of discipline and self-control to separate our real life (the life that matters) to the reel world of computers and the internet.
Discussion of this matter reminds me of one study that came out recently on “The Vanishing Values of the Filipino Family.” Me and the kids are hunting for our own house to live within the next few months and the quest led me to the doorsteps of Community Innovations, a subsidiary of Ayala Land. I got to meet Ms. Yeng Tupaz, the companyâ€™s project development manager who enlightened me on the results of a survey they conducted among their clients and other interest groups. The results were no less unnerving:
– Nine out of 10 Filipinos believe that social values are already disappearing in the Philippines, foremost among them respect for others, and especially elders. Only one out of five perceived their parents to be worth emulating.
– There is hardly time for family bonding. About 60 per cent of Filipino home owners are working overtime. Roughly half of those surveyed spend less than four hours a day with their children, and one out of five Filipino spouses do not spend any time at all with their partners. As a result, couples now argue about their lack of time together, more than arguing about finances or differences in parenting styles. This is worsened by the fact that 50 per cent of Filipino families donâ€™t go out for family vacations.
– One fourth of the respondents feel that health and fitness is an important aspect missing in their lives, and half of the population confess to not having any health or relaxation activities at all (unless you find staring at the computer a detressing activity).
– One third of all Filipino homeowners feel unsafe in their communities. Among such attributes as orderliness, accessibility and the like, safety and security in the community is the most underserved need.
– The last concern was the lack of religious expression. One out of every five Filipinos no longer attend church of any kind. The urge to do good deeds and perform charitable acts is strong within Filipino families; however, this desire is not necessarily backed up with concrete follow-up action.
What is good is that the Ayala real estate group has launched its parenting portal through its masterplanned suburban project, the Verdana Homes Mamplasan in Laguna. I checked out the site at familybonding.com.ph and found it awash with useful tips and family-oriented activities you can do to benefit your children. Users can have real online interaction with fellow parents so that you can share common concerns and be each otherâ€™s support network. Aside from this, the Verdana Homes people also conduct live coffee talks and on-site activities to bring parents, their children and the extended family together. A laudable initiative, if I may say.
The ultimate question is: how can we make technology pro-family and make it work to the best of our advantage? I have my own thoughts on this matter. One, make technology a sharing and caring experience, do not hack it alone. Dad and Mom can lead the children to wonderful educational sites, while techno-savvy daughter can teach her parents a thing or two of Adobe Photoshop. Two, achieve proper work-life balance. Parents must impose limits on computer use, especially of those highly-addicting computer games.Make sure everyone gathers for dinner and not turned on their backs, punching those keyboards. Lastly, parents must lead by example. They must let the children feel that spending quality time is their priority and not the computer. Technology can indeed be a wonderful thing if we know how to use it well.
The only true solution I see is regular participation by the parents – parents should lead this activity, and not just put their kids in front of the teevee, off with the “electronic nanny”. Read the reviews, choose the software, set the times, and above all, PARTICIPATE. Content ratings go on the package for a reason. I have denied sales to children that walk up with a title intended for seventeen years old and up, only to have the PARENT come up and make the purchase, after I inform them of the content, which they say is for his cousin, and not their son himself. “How old is his cousin?” I ask.
“Eleven.” is their answer. Go figure.