Mummy, I dunked your iPhone

Jul 01, 2012, 07:45 IST | Waleed Hussain and Phorum Dala

Remember cheering your kid when he flung the Frisbee across the room, or hugging her when she smeared lipstick on the mirror? It's no longer that cute when your three year-old hogs your laptop or decides to fling your smartphone out of the window. Waleed Hussain & Phorum Dalal find that new-age, tech-savvy parents have to deal with a lot more than requests for ice-cream and tantrums for new clothes

In February this year, 36 year-old imitation jewellery designer Adiba Khanum was discussing an order with karigars at her Mira Road residence. When she turned around to pick up a mug of coffee, to her horror, she found her iPhone, worth Rs 19,000, dunked in the beverage. Her two year-old son, Khalid, giggled from behind the door.

Thirty-three year-old Adnan Adebin looks on while his daughter, Zaara, plays a game on his Samsung Galaxy smartphone. Pic/Datta Kumbhar

“Working from home allows me to keep an eye on my child, but having a crawling baby in your workspace has its pitfalls too. With my first phone, I lost my contacts, excel sheets and orders,” says Khanum. It took the technician two days to retrieve some data from the memory card, while the rest was gone for good.

A few months later, Khanum lost her Blackberry Curve, worth R9,000, to Khalid’s insatiable teething itch. “This time, Khalid began using it as a chew toy. It became impossible to separate the two,” she recalls. Finally, she gave up and decided to let the baby play with his ‘new chew toy’, and moved on to a Samsung Galaxy Tab. Khanum no longer frets at the thought of Khalid flinging the Blackberry around like a Frisbee or digging his teeth into it. She has her Samsung Galaxy Tab, intact with all the data and contacts, locked away in her top-most drawer.

This is not a one-off case. Working parents, who own an army of high-end gadgets for work and pleasure, are having mini-heart attacks when their expensive gadgets meet tragic deaths at the hands of their oblivious kids. The loss of data, not to forget the inconvenience of losing all your contacts and the cost of the expensive phone, can leave one in tears,  quite literally.

A toy called an iPhone
In spite of having a room full of toys, event management professional Sashin Shah’s four year-old daughter, Neona, only wanted to play with mummy’s iPhone. “Although she was only two at the time, every time she laid her hands on it, she would push randomly at the touchscreen. My wife  lost her contacts twice after which she gave up. She bought herself another phone, and now, the iPhone, which is full of scratches, is only for Neona, who is now old enough to understand that she shouldn’t touch mummy’s phone to play her games,” says the Matunga resident. Now, the couple has an iPhone, iPod and an android device between the two, and a separate iPhone for Neona.

Two year-old Khalid uses his mother Adiba Khanum’s Blackberry Curve as a chew toy. Pic/Nimesh Dave

On the iPhone, if your finger is pressed on an icon for more than three seconds, it begins to tingle and the option to delete an app pops up. “I have lost many of my important notes and saved emails this way,” says Shah, who’s phone also fell short of memory after Neona learned how to use the camera. “I would be with a client, and would need to take a few site photos, but the phone memory would be full.

It got a bit tedious to keep a check on it,” he says. Finally, he decided to keep one phone aside just for Neona to play games on. The 30 year-old believes he is not spoiling his daughter by giving her a separate phone. “She is learning a lot. The iPhone has  so many educational applications and games, including Alphabets Fun, Farm Animals and Tidy the Room that I know it is helping her learn through technology,”  he feels.

Phones are not toys
Thirty-five year-old Sayed Aziz is a huge fan of gadgets and likes to indulge in expensive phones, tablets and gadgets. “My five year-old daughter, Sara, shares my passion for video games. As soon as I come home, she grabs my iPhone and then I don’t get to see it till she goes to bed. And she has a favourite spot at the window where she plays. One day, I realised that the phone had slipped from her hands and fallen out of the window. I still remember the horror of collecting the pieces from the parking lot,” he recalls grimly.

Four year-old Neona has her own iPhone to play educational games. Pic/Atul Kamble

Thankfully, he had backed up his data and contacts just the week before. “It would have been really painful to start from scratch,” says the Byculla-resident, who has since enforced a strict rule at home. His daughter is not allowed to play with his phones anymore. “I have bought her a PlayStation and made her understand that she is not old enough to play with my phone,” says the software engineer with a triumphant smile.

Nursery rhymes on a notebook
While some parents are disallowing children from using high-end gadgets, others prefer buying their little ones their own personal phone or tablet to make life simpler. In fact, garment exporter Shabistan Shaikh says she was thrilled when five year-old Subhaan began using her laptop to listen to nursery rhymes last year. “He would play his nursery rhymes in loop, and even slept with the laptop by his bedside,” smiles the 33 year-old.  But little did she realise that she would soon be losing the laptop to him. He refused to let her use it at home.

“I tried to dissuade Subhaan from using the laptop but he just wouldn’t budge. He would cry and even refuse to eat if I stopped him from playing with it. Finally, I gave in and let him take my old Compaq Notebook for him. He’s happy with it and doesn’t touch mine anymore,” says the Mira Road resident.
Thirty-three year-old Adnan Adebin has turned his two years and nine months old daughter Zaara’s fascination for his smartphone into a bonding exercise.

Five year-old Subhaan plays on his personal notebook while his mother Shabistan Shaikh works on her laptop. Pic/Nimesh Dave

“When I bought a Samsung Galaxy phone three months ago, Zaara was attracted to the shiny exterior. She would always reach out to hold it and tap it with her fingers. I realised that I could play educational games with her on the phone and began to allow her a few minutes in the day. Now, as soon as I come home from work, she crawls into my lap and we play games for around 30 minutes,” says the Santacruz resident.

From rattle to iPads
Does this practise spoil children? After all, the previous generation played with nothing more than tops and marbles and spent a lot more time in physical activity, and turned out just fine, some would feel. Yusuf Matcheswala, consulting psychiatrist, Masina Hospital, does not agree. “Kids aged between four and 10 are hyperactive. Let me explain with an example. Recently, I was on a flight and saw a six year-old child playing on the iPad. I could see his hand and eye movement, and I could make out that he was handling the tablet smartly.

We are in an era where children have a natural inclination towards technology. There was a time when kids this age played with rattles; today they are playing virtual games. What is wrong with that?” he asks. He does caution, however, that children should not lose out on human interaction. “Spending time in nature and nurturing personal relationships with siblings and parents should not take a backseat to technology,” he feels.

Similarly, psychiatrist Harish Shetty, who runs Nityanand Clinic in Andheri (West) gives a word of caution for parents. “When communication goes down, the demand for gadgets increases. Parents use gadgets in many ways — the television to feed the child and tablets and cell phones to make the child keep quiet — be it at a dinner party or at the doctor’s clinic. In many ways, children are spending family time with gadgets. However, when parents monitor the usage, and encourage their children to play educational games, it is fine.”  

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