BOAO, Hainan, March 29 (Xinhua) -- Besides globalization, multilateralism and China's structural reforms, a mundane issue has triggered serious discussions at the Boao Forum for Asia (BFA): whether kids should be kept away from electronic devices.
Though the world will be run by the "Generation Alpha," or those born after 2010, in due course, now it is still their "millennial" parents who sat together at the global forum to decide whether the young generation is being hijacked by their favorite toys -- digital gadgets.
The Alphas, the oldest of whom are still in primary school, were born after the first iPads hit shelves and are certain to encounter social media like Instagram and WeChat early in life.
At a subforum of the just-concluded BFA in China's Hainan Province, lawmakers, business leaders and scholars agree that the fondness for tablet computers and smartphones among "kids of today" is unprecedented.
Darren de Jesus, deputy secretary general of the Philippines' House of Representatives, said his two-year-old son has already learned how to search for photos and videos of Mickey Mouse on a smartphone.
And children badgering parents for bedtime stories may also be a thing of the past, as Tin Pei Ling, a member of the Parliament in Singapore, said her son, who is three and half years old, asks to watch movies on a tablet before bed.
Syed Hussain Shaheed Soherwordi, a researcher with the University of Peshawar, Pakistan, echoes the rising concern about children's premature first contact with virtual reality. He said he is supervising his children to help them balance between the virtual world and the real world.
Ida Bagus Made Bimantara, an Indonesian diplomat, holds a similar view. It becomes harder to make a child read books or partake in other entertainment after they start using digital products, he observed.
Others stress the opportunities to harness the inevitable for good.
Guo Fan, director of Chinese sci-fi blockbuster "The Wandering Earth," cited the example of his son using an iPad to learn English from a teacher in New York.
"The Internet will be like the water and air of their lives. Of course, water and air may be polluted, so it is how we deal with it that matters," said Guo.
The question that remains is what should we do: Many speakers agree that parents today should take the question seriously.
"Many say it is parents who spend too much time on the screens," said de Jesus, who noted that many parents now use smartphones or tablets as an easy solution to quiet their children, especially in public spaces.
Soherwordi called for parents to refrain from overuse of digital products to set a good example for the Alphas. The professor's parents used to spend much time playing cricket with him, and his children, he believes, will happily put down their tablets if he invites them to play a sport.