Internet generation

Raising children in a screen-free home is tough – but recently, I discovered the perfect compromise

The podcast is the ideal way to keep your child away from screens and yet engaged.

You know who is a parent’s best fair-weather friend? A smart device. Give a child one of those things and you’ll find that the old adage of a mother’s work never being done is untrue. As adults, we’re pretty much addicted to our devices – so imagine what happens to the curious, sharp and quick brains of children when suddenly handed an entire world of entertainment or information at the slightest swipe of a shiny tablet.

Giving your kid an internet-enabled device means you can keep them busy for hours. I decided to keep my home media-free because the advertisements both on television and the internet are not really appropriate, not to mention misleading. Unsupervised time on either medium is dangerous, and I don’t want them to become video game addicts at least until they are teenagers.

This is why we don’t have a television set. We don’t watch YouTube or Netflix (well, not until the kids are asleep and I open it up like some guilty pleasure.) I chose the Waldorf education system for my eight and nine-year olds for its keen no-electronic-media philosophy. My biggest challenge, as you can probably imagine, is keeping them engaged.

If this sounds tough, imagine going on a road trip with kids and having the no-device policy. Thankfully, as more and more parents recognise the damage visual media can inflict on children, some of us have also found podcasts.

Pexels/ via Pixabay [Licensed under CC BY CC0]
Pexels/ via Pixabay [Licensed under CC BY CC0]

No such thing as boredom

A little over two years ago, I was on the road a lot and thanks to a friend, discovered a fascinating curiosity podcast called No Such Thing As A Fish. A podcast created by researchers and producers of the BBC game show QI, the podcast permanently changed the way I consumed content.

As a single mother, I run a tight schedule. School runs are timed to perfection. Snacks, playtime, shower, a little cuddling, dinner, and finally, all of this culminating in bedtime at about 7:30 pm. Even when I wasn’t driving, the podcast allowed me to get around the house and finish work without the dreariness of boredom seeping in. I would fold the laundry, make a snack or clean up shelves all the while listening to voices discuss several interesting facts or break a concept down.

Six months ago, the children and I were on a road trip and I downloaded a few podcasts for the way. I picked three podcasts that seemed promising – a science-themed one called Brains On, a history-based one called The Past and The Curious and one called The Alien Adventures of Finn Caspian. It was perfect, because podcasts engage a child’s imagination just like reading stories to them – children have to listen carefully to every word spoken and create the image in their heads. The road trip was the most peaceful one any one of us has ever had.

The creators of Brains On, an NPR podcast, for instance, firmly believe their ideal podcast audience is both children and curious adults. “Having the kids who write in with questions become our co-hosts is a great way to engage,” said Molly Bloom, one of the creators, in an interview.

Perhaps the only problem I foresaw was that most podcasts follow a single theme. If one child got bored and wanted to switch to, say, a science podcast, instead of the history one while I was driving, they’d have to go through the other apps on the phone, running the risk of getting distracted and abandoning the exercise altogether. Children are masters of distraction – by the time they chose a podcast or an episode, I knew they’d decide they wanted to do something else altogether.

Representative image. Photo credit: Amanda Golden/Flickr [Licensed under CC BY 2.0]
Representative image. Photo credit: Amanda Golden/Flickr [Licensed under CC BY 2.0]

Child-friendly virtual space

Leela Kids, an app for children between the ages of three and 15, was launched by California-based Leela Labs on iOS in late July and on Android in the second week of August. It’s a carefully and thoughtfully curated app for children’s podcasts. Children need not exit it to look for another podcast or theme they like, so they don’t run the risk of getting lost on the internet and getting distracted by something shinier.

Sandeep Jain, the founder of Leela Labs, the company that makes Leela Kids, said: “I quit my fairly well-paid job to build Leela Labs as I found podcasting technology to be completely broken and saw a tremendous business opportunity. Radio advertising is worth around $20 billion while podcast advertising is only about $200 million. The idea for the Leela Kids Podcast App came about when I had to spend hours to find an episode on Dinosaurs that my 4-year-old son could listen to. In the App, we curate individual episodes based on kids’ ages and topics of interest and the results are ranked based on individual episodes and how far along the users have listened to a given episode.”

Jain observed what kind of topics his kid and kids of other friends liked – dinosaurs, oceans, science, history curiosity. “Of course, everyone loves stories,” he said.

The hunger for content that is exciting, engaging and yet not addictive is one that, for now, only books provide in many households. Kids Listen, an organisation in the US working towards engaging kids in learning while making them listen, suggests that children are more “actively engaged” after listening to a podcast than watching a TV show. TV is deluged with advertisements that are not entirely inappropriate for kids, not to mention highly misleading. There is the occasional advertisement on podcasts too, but the content is mostly seamless.

Podcasts are perfect for days that the kids are rained in, or sick, or when they’re travelling. The only downside? You’re spending the next hour on Google trying to answer all the questions that popped up in their heads while listening to the episode.

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The perpetual millennial quest for self-expression just got another boost

Making adulting in the new millennium easier, one step at a time.

Having come of age in the Age of the Internet, millennials had a rocky start to self-expression. Indeed, the internet allowed us to personalise things in unprecedented fashion and we really rose to the occasion. The learning curve to a straightforward email address was a long one, routed through cringeworthy e-mail ids like You know you had one - making a personalised e-mail id was a rite of passage for millennials after all.

Declaring yourself to be cool, a star, a princess or a hunk boy was a given (for how else would the world know?!). Those with eclectic tastes (read: juvenile groupies) would flaunt their artistic preferences with an elitist flair. You could take for granted that and would listen to Bollywood music or read Archie comics only in private. The emo kids, meanwhile, had to learn the hard way that employers probably don’t trust candidates with e-mail ids such as

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Created using Imgflip

And with chat rooms, early millennials had found a way to communicate, with...interesting results. The oldest crop of millennials (30+ year olds) learnt to deal with the realities of adolescent life hunched behind anonymous accounts, spewing their teenage hormone-laden angst, passion and idealism to other anonymous accounts. Skater_chick could hide her ineptitude for skating behind a convincing username and a skateboard-peddling red-haired avatar, and you could declare your fantasies of world domination, armed with the assurance that no one would take you seriously.

With the rise of blogging, millennial individualism found a way to express itself to millions of people across the world. The verbosity of ‘intellectual’ millennials even shone through in their blog URLs and names. GirlWhoTravels could now opine on her adventures on the road to those who actually cared about such things. The blogger behind could choose to totally ignore petunias and no one would question why. It’s a tradition still being staunchly upheld on Tumblr. You’re not really a Tumblr(er?) if you haven’t been inspired to test your creative limits while crafting your blog URL. Fantasy literature and anime fandoms to pop-culture fanatics and pizza lovers- it’s where people of all leanings go to let their alter ego thrive.

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Created using Imgflip

Then of course social media became the new front of self-expression on the Internet. Back when social media was too much of a millennial thing for anyone to meddle with, avatars and usernames were a window into your personality and fantasies. Suddenly, it was cool to post emo quotes of Meredith Grey on Facebook and update the world on the picturesque breakfast you had (or not). Twitter upped the pressure by limiting expression to 140 characters (now 280-have you heard?) and the brevity translated to the Twitter handles as well. The trend of sarcasm-and-wit-laden handles is still alive well and has only gotten more sophisticated with time. The blogging platform Medium makes the best of Twitter intellect in longform. It’s here that even businesses have cool account names!

Self-expression on the Internet and the millennials’ love for the personalised and customised has indeed seen an interesting trajectory. Most millennial adolescents of yore though are now grownups, navigating an adulting crisis of mammoth proportions. How to wake up in time for classes, how to keep the boss happy, how to keep from going broke every month, how to deal with the new F-word – Finances! Don’t judge, finances can be stressful at the beginning of a career. Forget investments, loans and debts, even matters of simple money transactions are riddled with scary terms like beneficiaries, NEFT, IMPS, RTGS and more. Then there’s the quadruple checking to make sure you input the correct card, IFSC or account number. If this wasn’t stressful enough, there’s the long wait while the cheque is cleared or the fund transfer is credited. Doesn’t it make you wish there was a simpler way to deal with it all? If life could just be like…

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Created using Imgflip

Lo and behold, millennial prayers have been heard! Airtel Payments Bank, India’s first, has now integrated UPI on its digital platform, making banking over the phone easier than ever. Airtel Payments Bank UPI, or Unified Payment Interface, allows you to transfer funds and shop and pay bills instantly to anyone any time without the hassles of inputting any bank details – all through a unique Virtual Payment Address. In true millennial fashion, you can even create your own personalised UPI ID or Virtual Payment Address (VPA) with your name or number- like rhea@airtel or 9990011122@airtel. It’s the smartest, easiest and coolest way to pay, frankly, because you’re going to be the first person to actually make instant, costless payments, rather than claiming to do that and making people wait for hours.

To make life even simpler, with the My Airtel app, you can make digital payments both online and offline (using the Scan and Pay feature that uses a UPI QR code). Imagine, no more running to the ATM at the last minute when you accidentally opt for COD or don’t have exact change to pay for a cab or coffee! Opening an account takes less than three minutes and remembering your VPA requires you to literally remember your own name. Get started with a more customised banking experience here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Airtel Payments Bank and not by the Scroll editorial team.