Amongst all the worries on the minds of society’s parents today – political parties doing what they say, terrorism reports in every news broadcast and contaminated eggs in our supermarket sandwiches – there is, what could be called, the “elephant in the room” – technology.
According to research, a child born in 2017 will have spent an average of a full year staring at screens (tablets, computers, TVs) by the time they reach seven.
The issue with the technology / parenting debate is that we’re all a bit afraid and unsure about it and what’s more, its inescapable. For certain, we’re happy to make jokes that C-Bebbies gives us five minutes piece (to put a wash on) when Mr Tumble transfixes our little ones into a coma-like state. But are we as happy to share when the same little person threw a 5 minute tantrum when we took away the I-pad playing Peppa Pig?
When I see children, including my own child on occasion, watching screens during meals out or journeys in the car strapped to the headrest, it does make me wonder what the hundreds of generations did before us to appease their off-spring? Is it that our brains are evolving Darwin-style that today’s children need constant stimulation? In that case, which came first, the chicken or the egg?
More worryingly, parents of older children tell me their children’s friendship circles “IRL” often revolve around their friendship circles on-line. If you’re not part of certain ”gaming” worlds, you’re simply not part of the gang. As someone who’s biggest worry as a pre-teen was getting caught with thier skirt rolled up at school, this makes me feel so sad.
So what are we to do?
There are no government guidelines on the topic, but there are public research papers showing higher levels of screen viewing are having a negative effect on children’s mental wellbeing – including lower self-worth, lower self-esteem and lower self-reported happiness levels – as well as physical wellbeing – with growing numbers of toddlers starting school lacking basic muscle strength from more hours spent finger jabbing screens than rampaging around parks swinging from climbing frames.
Try digesting that over your morning coffee.
I guess the point is that there is no answer – just as we try to encourage a healthy diet for our children, we’ll still let them eat ice-cream on a sunny day. We can’t wrap our children up in cotton wool and move to a remote, wi-fi free forest either – technology is part of our world now and its up to us how much we let it embrace our children.
This post features information from Sue Palmer’s Book “Toxic Childhood: How the Modern World is Damaging Our Children and What We Can Do About It”.
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