By Hannah Black
This week I introduced my niece and nephew Kaka and Dara to wonders of the Sony PlayStation.
A colleague at work was selling an old console off cheap so I thought I’d treat the kids to something they’ve wanted for a long time.
I’m not a big fan of game consoles but I had a big grey box of a Nintendo when I was a kid and although I didn’t play it much, because my sister was always so much better than me that it ruined the fun, it was great for rainy days stuck in the house.
There is a PS2 place in the village where kids pay by the hour to play, but competition for slots is fierce and the big boys often take the whole place over and leave no time for the smaller ones.
I’ve never been in this particular one but if it’s anything like others, it’s a stinky room with food crushed into the floor and ashtrays overflowing with cigarette butts. I’d much rather the kids gather in our compound where there is fresh air and a clean space to sit.
Kaka, being a typical 6-year-old, was excited about the arrival of a new, much-coveted toy. He flashed his black pegs of teeth in a huge grin and shyly thanked me. Then told me he I needed to buy another controller as it only came with one.
Within minutes of getting the thing hooked up, our living room was filled with boys of all ages shouting instructions to the sole player over the blaringly loud sound effects.
No one was very good at any of the games, so they kept trying new ones and different players to find someone who could get past the first couple of minutes without dying.
I decided that although our TV is bigger and better positioned than the one in the compound, there was no way the PS would be staying in our house.
Like I said, I’m not a huge fan of computer games and one of the things I love best about raising a child here in the village is the amount of outdoor playtime they have. Sitting in front of TVs isn’t something the kids round here do a huge amount of.
Kaka literally can’t eat enough for the amount he runs around and as a result is a skinny little thing constantly pulling his trousers up as he dashes around the village.
Sometimes I don’t see them all day because they’re out with friends riding bicycles, playing in the river or building things. I can’t imagine they would give all that up to spend hours staring at a screen.
I think the trouble comes when kids get hooked and forget how wonderful it is to roam free outside in the fresh air and make fun out of whatever is at hand.
Fun piped straight into the brain from the TV is lazy fun and should be used in moderation.
When I was growing up in the US and the Isle of Man we had freedom to roam and things were relatively safe, like they are here.
We liked to be out and about making forts, playing in mud and generally causing trouble as far away from the watchful eyes of parents as possible.
Staying indoors was reserved for snowy and rainy days and even then we spent lots of time cooking and doing all kinds of projects with our parents.
Here in Bali parents don’t always have a lot of time for kids between all their other village responsibilities; so they are often left to their own devices.
If they stay out of their parents’ hair for a while by playing the PlayStation, all the better.
I’ve tried to buy them books and more educational toys but they thank me and then I find them discarded somewhere, gathering dust.
I won’t give up but I think it may take a while before reading books for fun ever catches on here.