Of yellow pills and tablets

Tablets? Seriously? Tablets ?

Wait a minute....maybe we’re talking about those little yellow pills that we all need to feel better every now and then.

If that’s the case then maybe I could twist and stretch my imagination enough to justify giving one to all school children. God knows some teachers could use a few too.

But it seems like we’re talking about the little touch screens; the ones that in the developed world are meant to give people access to the world wide web, social media, You

Tube and the works.

The ones that have been designed mainly to facilitate communication wherever we are.

The ones that were never meant to replace text books.

The ones that, as any parent will testify, are practically impossible to child-proof.

With wi-fi so easily available everywhere, and with the android market full of free apps, You Tube links that pop out of nowhere, and social media just a touch away, a tablet is, or rather should be, every parent’s nightmare.

Child psychologists (who know what they’re doing) strongly advice against getting your child anything that lets them connect to the internet, and which they can use in the privacy of their own space, because to date, no child-proof software is actually child-proof.

And, if the solution to this is to disable wi-fi connectivity, then I have only word to say – FACEPALM!

Even kids who can’t read a word; kids who have never seen so much as a calculator or a watch, will manage to get around any attempt to control the use of their tablet.

Late last year, an organisation called One Laptop Per Child tried an experiment in two very remote villages in Ethiopia; and when I say remote I mean seriously remote - about fifty miles away from the closest sign of civilisation, and that’s if you can call Addis Ababa civilised.

One of the villages is called Wonchi and the other is called Wolonchete. People in these places have not even been exposed to road signs, let alone books or gadgets.

As part of an experiment, the One Laptop Per Child organisation dropped off hundreds of sealed boxes containing tablets in these villages, and then watched what happened. The boxes were shut tight with no instructions whatsoever.

Within minutes, the kids opened the boxes, and one of them found the way to turn it on.

Within less than a week they had figured out how to recharge the tablets by solar power and were using 47 apps per child, per day.

Now wait for it, these tablets could not connect to the internet because as you can imagine there is no internet infrastructure in such remote areas, but within five months, the kids still managed to hack the Android in order to enable the camera and customize their desktop – both of which had been locked using special ‘child-proof’ software.

Sure, the kids were also singing the alphabet song that had been pre-installed on their tablets, but I thought we had teachers for that here!

Parents who have never owned or used a tablet themselves might not realise the dangers involved in giving one to their child. Those who have, however, are probably still scooping up their chins off the floor.

I don’t even want to think about the cost involved in doing this, you know the taxes that you and me would rather see going towards more homes for the elderly, more nurses, more residential care for the disabled, better streets, and more resource centres where people with intellectual disabilities get to do more than stare at each other all day.

And I won’t even go into the logistical nightmare of missing tablets, stolen tablets and orange juice-soaked tablets.

The point is - tablets were not designed for writing nor for reading. They were not designed for classroom teaching either.

No one has ever managed to write more than an email on a tablet and when we’re forced to most of us get the urge to jump off the closest cliff.

Tablets are not meant to be used as text books either. Besides the fact that there are other gadgets meant for this, the solution to not having children carry half their body weight in books is simple - it’s called better time-table planning.

So tell me? Would you like extra fries with your tablet sir ?


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