Are digital gadgets good for our kids? was first published at the Manila Times, July 29, 2018.

Most parents face this dilemma: should they be giving their kids gadgets as toys? Or should they deprive them of these gadgets? It doesn’t help that the World Health Organization (WHO) recently released the latest update of its International Classification of Diseases and identified gaming disorder as an addictive behavior disorder. The new classification is warranted because of a movement in the medical field to recognize addictive behaviors extend beyond drug addiction, according to John Roache, who heads UT Health San Antonio’s Division of Alcohol and Drug Addiction.

Having raised my three children in the early age of the internet in 1995, I followed two parenting concepts that applies online and offline. These are clear limits and lead by example.

Clear limits mean providing boundaries on our child’s activities and walking the talk on rules.

We need to understand the technologies better to know how they should and should not be used. We have to recognize where the real world begins and ends so we can help our children develop boundaries in both worlds. Parents also need to venture into the online world of our children to help them navigate the tricky waters, learn the rules, learn from our adult experience and still be safe.

In our digital lifestyle, a mobile phone or tablet is usually within easy reach. Raising tech-savvy kids at such a young age has its advantage but can also be a little worrisome. Both feelings are valid, but the motivation behind our children’s interaction with gadgets need to be examined as this can help determine whether the use of the gadget is beneficial or harmful to the kid. Children exposed to gadgets for more than two hours a day have higher risk of becoming overweight, which could lead to other serious illnesses such as diabetes and heart diseases according to Dr. Parolita Mission, head of the National Nutrition Council (NNC) in Region 7.

A paper “The Impact of using Gadgets on Children”, written by Sundus of the Department of Computer Science, Lahore Garrison University and which appeared in the “Journal of Depression and Anxiety” published on January 10, 2018 discussed both the positive and negative impact of gadget use. The positive impact of gadget use are 1) Children have better motor skills; 2) Gadgets are fun for kids while they use them; 3) Educational games help children to perform well in their studies; 4) Playing video games enhances their skills of competition and enables them to manage themselves in competing environment.

On the other hand, the negative impact of gadget use is Speech or language delay, Attention deficits, Learning problems, anxiety, childhood depression, and negative impact on character.

Mundus recommend some tips parents can follow when their child is using gadgets.

Set time for using screens: The amount of time children spend on gadgets need to be restricted and be consistent by not allowing them to use after their time is finished. It is recommended that small children use gadget an hour a day and two hours a day for school children. Set your own rules and follow them consistently.

Some parents get their children’s gadgets at 9:00 PM before bedtime while others programmed their modem to shut off at a certain time. Another parent I know allows her highschool children to monitor their own time as long as their grades are fine. The limits I set for my children below 16 years old: only one hour gadget use/internet a day. No TV during school days. Once the girls were in college, I set them free and allowed them to set their own rules.

Make them play outside: Children need to be encouraged to play outside with their friends and siblings. They will learn to interact and communicate with other children. Playing with pets like cats, dogs, and other kids are so much better, rather than watching any animated movie. Playing outside also helps in exercising long distance vision and lessens the chances of myopia. Allow them to develop other hobbies like singing, sports or the arts.

You can also make a deal in the house that for every hour of media, they must also spend an hour reading or being outside. This makes sure kids keep a balance between technology and other activities.

Gadgets as babysitters is discouraged: It is best to keep the children occupied with other creative toys, story books, puzzles, coloring books while you are busy. Kids should be experiencing all the senses in their activities not just eye-hand coordination.

Ensure adequate sleep of your child:  10 hours a day is what our young children need every day. Good sleep helps recover from eyestrain and for efficient working of brain.

If you need to use digital devices to your young children, cuddle them in your arms or sit them on your lap. The best way to make technology a healthy and positive part of family life is actually to embrace it as a family activity.

Play games along with them to encourage building social skills while monitoring how they are learning. Teach them how to use technology responsibly. Talk to them about apps that have added value, versus apps that are merely repetitive. For as long as the kids are guided well and follow a balanced set of online and offline activities, gadget use can be beneficial to their learning and growth. As with everything, moderation is key.

Helicopter parents take away a child’s character and his ability to do things on his own. This type of parenting is backfiring. – Lisa Hein


I only heard of term, helicopter parenting from Cookie when I asked for suggestions on topics. I did a little research and found out that helicopter parents are so named because, like helicopters, they hover closely overhead, rarely out of reach, whether their children need them or not.

I wondered if I was so I asked Lauren if I was a helicopter parent because I knew at some point I was a protective and strict parent. She said “no”. Sometimes I think I am so laid back but I don’t think I was a helicopter parent except when it came to the internet usage. In 1996, there were very few kids online and I had no one to ask advice on web safety. I learned to let go when the girls were in college but I never hovered like a helicopter when it came to their academics. In fact, I never fussed about their grades except when they needed help on a topic. Part of growing up is learning to stand on their own. The girls knew we were always there to ask for help.

How can you tell if you are a helicopter parent? A parent shared me her article 10 ways to tell if you are a helicopter parent, ten signs that you’re well on the road to driving your children, and yourself, insane. What is disturbing is the results of a study that says ” overly protective parents might be leaving a lasting impact on their child’s personality.” The US study, which surveyed college freshman, is one of the first to try to define exactly what helicopter parenting is, and measure it.

Can you imagine what it will be like in the more conservative Philippine setting? Only 10 % of the students surveyed had helicopter parents. I think I saw a few during registration period in Ateneo when I fetched my daughter after she was done.

What did the study show?

“Students with helicopter parents tended to be less open to new ideas and actions, as well as more vulnerable, anxious and self-consciousness, among other factors, compared with their counterparts with more distant parents.”

“We have a person who is dependent, who is vulnerable, who is self-conscious, who is anxious, who is impulsive, not open to new actions or ideas; is that going to make a successful college student?”

Many educators have been searching for ways to tell parents when to back off. It’s a tricky line to walk, since studies link parents’ engagement in a child’s education to better grades, higher test scores, less substance abuse and better college outcomes. Given a choice, teachers say, overinvolved parents are preferable to invisible ones.

The challenge is helping parents know when they are crossing a line.

My advice is letting go slowly… starting at 8 years old, determine if your child can wean off from your tutorial time, decide extra curricular activities and even making decisions with your guidance. Remember , a certain amount of hovering is understandable when it comes to young kids, but when it persists through high school and college, I think it is so unhealthy for both sides.

‘Give ’em the morals, give ’em the right start, but you’ve got to let them go.’ They deserve to live their own lives.”


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If there is anything my daughters (especially my eldest girl) cannot imagine is a young and wild me. True, I was once young (still young), a 105 pound slim and anti-social girl who’d rather pour over her school text books than gallivant around with her roommates or officemates. I never considered myself “wild” , not wild enough to party out during weekends. Not wild enough to bend a few rules here and there.

I am the sister who admonished her siblings NOT to stay out late. The only time I ever went home late was at 2:00 AM only because my ex-boyfriend drove me all the way from Quezon City to Las Piñas. To think that I was then 24 years old, living independently since college graduation and I had the freedom to go out anywhere I wished.

I was like the manang.

I am the sister who shook her head and berated her sisters whenever I see them scurrying off like rats over to the door as soon as my dad fell asleep. If only he knew.

I am the sister who got appalled whenever her other sisters climbed over the gates of our house after curfew hours. Of course, I never tattle-taled on them.

The two “wildest” things I ever did in my life was smoking (yes, bad!) and oogling at cute guys while abroad during a conference I attended with my sister Lorna and dad. The year was in 1984, a year before I got married. Butch told me that I should take this vacation because once we got married, he is not sure if he can bring me around the world. (He still hasn’t.)

young me
I thought that it is my last time to “appreciate” the cute guys (I still do!) without the guilt so why not? My sister, the sociable one always broke the ice when we met these cute guys. I can’t remember if I flirted or not. Maybe not because one time, a British guy stalked me as I loitered around the trade hall. Of course I snubbed the creep because girls don’t like to be stalked no matter how cute they are. The temerity of this guy! He had the gall to say that I was racist, just because of his color. Oh wow. I could have slapped him right there and then.

young me
My ex-boyfriend must have been attracted to my boring personality because one day he suddenly blurted in that sexy voice, You are like a rock to me. I must have also been attracted to his wild, reckless and unconventional ways too. We easily complemented each other. Sometimes, I see a little of myself in my second daughter (she’s more sociable than I was at her age) and my husband in Lauren though I know they are their own unique persons.

Do I regret not being a bit more wild?

Yes and no. No, because my personality is probably like that and Yes because I should have been more easygoing. I’ve evolved to a more laid-back person in the past years. Though I might have aged and grown bigger the past 29 years since those photos were taken, I still feel young and in every essence, happy. Age is not a factor to be considered “wild” and carefree.

I have never been happier in my life. I don’t pine for the good old days of my un-reckless lost youth. When I look back at my life , I don’t think in terms of my losses. I think of all the experience gained. And I look forward with enthusiasm about experiences that have yet to be enjoyed with my husband, my  daughters, my blogger friends, the citizen advocates of Blog Watch and my wonderful, loving siblings.

It’s one reason I want to venture into new activities or cultivate new friendships. There is always something fun to do.

To be young and wild is all about attitude.