Sunday 5 December 2010

Curfew? I want my kids OUT of the house during school holidays

I would like to ask you something if you are a parent of children between 10 and 15 years old – although judging by the kind of comments from readers I get on Facebook, I believe you’re more likely to be between 10 and 15 years old yourself.

Anyway, I’m a parent of an 11-year-old girl and 13-year-old boy. The year-end school holidays have started.

It is the best of times because I no longer have to keep asking my kids to do their homework.

It is the worst of times because without the interruption of having to go to school, my kids now spend most of their waking hours in front of a screen of some kind.

It could be the TV, the computer, the PSP or their mobile phones – and sometimes, two of these at the same time.

My question is: Are other kids like this?

This can't be healthy.

And when I take the gadgets away from them, they turn into pumpkins. They have no other reason for being. They would lie down in bed and can't be motivated to do anything else except wait for the chance to return to their virtual worlds. Or fall asleep.

I try to get them interested in Universal Studios, Walking With Dinosaurs, Harry Potter's Hallows - deathly or otherwise - or the latest animated 3-D movie, but they won’t bite because all these things involve going out – and being separated from the home computer.

Hey, I'm grateful that their indifference to the outside world saves me a lot of money – but still.

When I do manage to get them out of the house, they would either be playing with their PSP and mobile phones or asking me when it's time to go home.

You know how the recent incidents of youth violence have prompted discussions about a curfew?

I wonder if a “reverse curfew” is a good idea.

A curfew requires young people to be home by a certain time. A “reverse curfew” would require young people to stay out of home until a certain time.

Yes, I’m that desperate to get my kids out of the house.

Once again, as my wife pointed out, it’s partly my fault. I, too, spend most of my waking hours in front of a screen of some kind. At work, it’s the computer monitor. At home, I’m doing exactly what the kids are doing.

When I chase them away from the home computer, it’s usually so that I can use it to bid for country music CDs on eBay. I’m a bad role model in more ways than one.

At least when school starts, I can tell them to do their homework so that I can have the computer to myself.

But then there’s this thing called e-Learning, which requires them to do their homework online.

How do I check the comments on my Facebook page then?

I just can't win - at least until I get another computer.

- Published in The New Paper, 5 December 2010