A huge villa overlooking the sea, the interior is just a stunning. Ten beautifully themed bedrooms, a gaming room and an entertainment area all included. This is the house of a family of four. Their father is a renowned businessman who spends more time at his many stores than he does at home, being a pampered wife their mother is far too busy attending the latest high tea, planning a holiday with her friends or having her hair done. Their children aged 9 and 13 are met by the house helper as they arrive home from school. The resident chef prepares their meals and has it sent to their rooms. The children spend the rest of the afternoon entertaining themselves by playing with their latest hi-tech gadgets and their very best gaming devices. They do not see their mother until it is time for bed as she rushes in from gym, gives them a goodnight kiss and goes to shower. They get to see their father at least once in the week if he is in the city. These are our 21stCentury orphans.
They are an average middle class family. Her husband has a 8 to 5 job and she is a housewife. They have three beautiful children all under five. Her mornings are busy as she tries to juggle breakfast while keeping the kids entertained so she switches on the iPad for her one year old daughter and hands her 3year old son his ps4 to keep him occupied. Her five year old does not need her help to keep busy as he already has his own cell phone which he is glued to. Their little eyes are transfixed onto the glaring screens and they do not even notice their father making salaam as he leaves for work. Their kids are always in front of some screen if not their devices then its the television keeping them company as mummy and daddy are also busy typing away on their laptops and cell phones. These are our 21st century orphans.
She was thrilled when her parents handed her the latest iPhone for her 16th birthday. It was exactly what she wanted and she was soon addicted to it, she spent hours alone in her room. Wi-Fi made the internet connection so much faster and she could now download her favourite apps, music and movies straight to her phone, the only time she came out of her room was to eat. After a few months this beautiful young lady became depressed and missed school regularly. This went unnoticed by her parents as they were both at work and oblivious to her change in behaviour. That evening her teacher called to complain about her grades dropping and as her mother unlocked her bedroom door she found her daughters lifeless body spiralled across the bed. Her suicide text said: ‘I could no longer face you mama and daddy, he raped me on our first blind date’. It was later discovered that she had met with her online boyfriend a week before she took a bottle of sleeping pills. These are our 21st Century Orphans.
He always had the best technology at his house as his father is an I.T specialist and his mother a web designer. He never had to ask for a new laptop or iPad as it was always available. The other children at school often envied him. He never did play soccer or cricket nor does he ever remember going to the park or even playing outside as whatever he did was virtual. He often heard stories of camping trips and outdoor adventures and his heart yearned to experience this but his parents were never supportive of such activities, they would rather have him at home in front of a screen were it was ‘safe’. He started joining friends at school who did drugs as he wanted to experience the ‘high’ and escape from the sad virtual reality he called life. Soon he became addicted to hard-core drugs and unfortunately his parents only took notice of his evil habit once their prized ipads and laptops started going missing as he sold whatever he could find to feed his addiction. These are our 21st Century Orphans.
We place six month old babies in front of an iPad or the television just so we can get our chores done, we gift our five year olds cell phones just to keep them busy and out of mischief, we hand over laptops, ipads and PlayStations to our teens so they can keep up with their friends.
The Wi-Fi is permanently switched on and the only time the family gets together is when they all come to check why the Wi-Fi is not connecting. This is the sad reality of our homes which have now become the hub of virtual activities. We complain about our children being disrespectful, anti-social, having attention disorders or having poor grades at school yet we never realize that we handed them the tools to their destruction. We as parents have been given beautiful gifts from Allah, our children are our amaanah from Allah which we will be questioned by Allah about as to how and why we neglected such precious blessings.
We are so engrossed on our laptops, iPhones, iPads, iPods and the television that we have no time to take our eyes off the screen and notice our children begging for attention, our attention. If we do not have the time or energy to raise our own children then technology is going take over their innocent hearts, mind and soul. Did you download your children via the latest app? No. So why are you using apps to babysit, play, entertain and occupy their lives, are you not responsible for that? We need to go back to basics, play with your children, talk to your children, go outside and take a walk, have family dinners with the no phones allowed policy. Give your children technology free days and you may find yourself enjoying it as much as they do. Be 100 percent present in your child’s life. One day your child may grieve over their dead phone battery more than they grieve over your dead body.
May Allah help us realize the important role we have as parents and give us the ability to fulfil that role. The saddest day arrives when your children become orphans even though you are still alive. Ameen.
By N Chhipa