Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Pass The Dongle, Will You?

Why you should let your teens have unlimited Internet time this summer…

Pass The Dongle, Will You?
Photo by Jitender Gupta/ Outlook

Summer's here! And at least in half the country, it means summer vacations are here. In other words, the stage is set for happy families to gather round and bond over morning walks and bicycle rides around the neighbourhood and pre-lunch expeditions to bookstores and post-lunch board games and evening badminton and joyous, cordial dinnertime discussions over where to go on holiday. Right?

'Of course!' you might say in response, but be warned that this will cause everyone around you to mutter 'Out in the sun too much yesterday, was she?' to each other while advising you to drink lots of coconut water and go lie down for a bit. If you responded, however, with a crazy-eyed 'HA!' and followed it with a burst of high-pitched hysterical laughter, rest assured that those same people will clutch you to their bosoms with glad cries of recognition.

Don't get me wrong. Every loving, well-meaning parent —  that's us, at least in our own heads; best not to ask for a second opinion —  really does want to do everything the ads tell us those perfect families do. In the stressful 'Final Exam' days leading to the holidays, visions of the perfect summer for the kids proliferate in our heads like the number of likes on someone else's irritatingly happy-looking family picture.

But the very real joys of no-alarm, no-morning-rush, no-lunch-to-pack and other such luxuries do not last. Rose-tinted visions have a way of imploding when they come under sixty hours (give or take a little, depending on your threshold) of heavy shelling from 'Can I have something to eat?' 'Can I have something to drink?', 'Can I have some money for xyz?' and 'I'm bored.' Not to mention the evil twins 'Can I watch TV?' and 'Can I go online?' Actually, scratch that. Television is passé, and essentially harmless. It is only the internet —  that millennial den of iniquity —  that we have to worry about.

Seriously, though, is the internet such a corrupting influence? Is all the hand-wringing over the loss of imagination and the death of the much-vaunted 'joy of discovery' in our children, because alas and alack, we live in an age when information about anything and everything becomes available in a ridiculously tiny fraction of a second (always assuming, of course, that your neighbor has unsecured and super-speedy wifi), really justified?

Most certainly not. In fact, letting your teens spend long hours staring into a computer screen these vacations will help them, and —  surprise, surprise —  you, reap hitherto unsuspected benefits:

  1. They learn to take responsibility for their actions, you get to confront —  and conquer —  your deepest, darkest fears —  Why pick a holiday destination based on some dreary historical monument or musty old museum that no one besides you is really interested in seeing? Let the kids pick the place, after youtubing the 'World's Top Ten MOST INSANE Quadruple-Flip 150-Decibel-Screams-Guaranteed Rollercoasters'. That wins you the right to whack them, hard, if they so much as sulk once after the ride. There is the small matter of you having to ride the coaster as well, but no one said conquering deep, dark fears came easy.
  2. They get to discover never-before career options, you get to stop worrying about filling the black hole that is their education fund —  So they'd rather watch a video of two young British men called Dan and Phil make faces at the camera using Apple's Photo Booth feature (that particular video has over 8 million views and counting), than read an improving book? So what? At least they now have a career ambition that involves nothing more than sitting on a bed and talking about random stuff into a camera. The best part? Zero entry barriers, including annoying things like degrees. It pays too, handsomely, once the 'Youtuber' (a fully legit new-age professional title, like 'reiki master' used to be a couple of decades ago) has crossed a million subscribers or so, a number that you may think of as 'impossible', but which your teen, like Nike, considers 'nothing'. Which means —  oh happy day! —  that you don't have to save up anymore for their education. Just to be safe, though, you might want to move all the money in that education fund into a lifetime roti-kapda-high-bandwidth-internet fund for the precious little tyke.
  3. They become masters at the fine art of multitasking, you get to ponder the multiverse —  Before you pull out some random western study on the perils of multitasking —  it causes the prefrontal cortex to atrophy or some such —  ask yourself, honestly, if you can head-bang to music, check Snapchat on your phone, google the best tattoo parlours in your city, post a selfie on instagram, stuff your face with junk food, and scroll through Tumblr posts —  all at the same time. If you answered no, accept that you are an old fossil (see? letting your kids loose on the internet also teaches you humility) and let them continue doing the one thing they do so well, and so quietly (thank the Lord for headphones!).

You are, after all, helping them get a head-start on preparing for the real world, instead of being unnecessarily draconian about their 'device time' like less well-advised parents are wont to do. Then get yourself a cup of chai, open your laptop, google multiverse —  or kabbala, or hypergeometric distribution or whatever other incomprehensible concept you have wanted to figure out forever, take a lesson in making choux pastry off youtube, update your whatsapp profile picture, download the latest crime bestseller onto your Kindle, and start having your first real summer holiday in years.

Win-win all around, clearly. What's not to like?