As an early years teacher, Anisa noticed that her students were becoming addicted to technology. Determined to do something about it and get them engaged again, she set up Kidz Unplugged. Writer Camille Hogg sits down with the energetic entrepreneur to discuss the importance of creativity, taking time out from devices and letting kids be kids
Tell us about Kidz Unplugged – where did the inspiration come from and what’s it all about?
I was teaching for about six years, but every year I found myself in the same cycle. My students were four years old and so bright, but they were getting less and less creative, ambitious and independent because of technology use.
I knew that something had to be done. Technology is part of our generation, and now is a good time to pause, reevaluate and figure out how to balance it. If we can’t do that with the minimal amount we have now, how are we going to later? At Kidz Unplugged we have workshops for adults to better balance technology in their lives or their children’s lives.
We also work with children, nannies and teachers. I’m one of seven children, and we didn’t have technology when I was growing up. Imagine a minivan with seven kids in – my mum had to be so creative and we had such a free childhood. A lot of what I do with Kidz Unplugged is inspired by her.
So what’s the problem with our relationship with technology – are you saying we should ditch it completely?
On the contrary; I’m not trying to go to war with technology – I’d never win! I want us to find a balance. According to research I’ve done, children in the UAE spend seven to eight hours a day on technology, on average.
These children are our future generation. The first step is to acknowledge that this is an issue – you’d be surprised how many parents tell me their children need the iPad in the car, or that they won’t eat dinner without it. This is one of the biggest worries, that children are demonstrating addictive behaviour.
Emotional development is one of the biggest areas where kids are losing out. What the iPad, or any screen, doesn’t have – yet – is human connection. When children spend so much time on one piece of technology, they are no longer having that social development, they don’t empathise and it disconnects them from everything.
How can parents make a start on ‘unplugging’ their kids at home?
A lot of parents say that they’ll take the device away, but that’s not the right answer. You need to pinpoint the times when it’s used most, like in the car, during mealtimes and at home when they’re claiming they’re bored.
Your child is a definition of what you instil in them; you are their first role model. The best way to get your child to do anything is to get to know them.
The way you can do that is with an unplugged zone – this could be an area or space in your home that has no technology. It’s a project for your child to create a space that’s totally theirs and tailored to them. That is something the iPad can’t give them.
To find out more, contact: 02 401 2911, instagram.com/kidzunpluggedmena