The world is changing and as always Children are just changing along with it, without question and without a hitch so it would seem, if anything I feel jealous sometimes that my kids adapt to new technology and within a very short period of time are using the new gadget or application with the ease of a seasoned pro, they can do this because they do not resist change, life for them has been constant fast paced change and they are comfortable with it, no sooner can they walk and talk as they are then put into pre-schools, people come people go and they are constantly introduced to new experiences and toys to assist their learning, by definition parents on the other hand tend to be at least a generation away and have, if nothing else gotten used to a slower pace of life, we have settled into jobs / careers found somewhere to live and our interests and hobbies are all pretty much fixed by the time we consider having children, actually it is often this particular milestone that triggers the conversations about having kids.
So we start to resist changes, we look with suspicion at gadgets and apps as they appear on the market, and with confusion at the latest craze to sweep over our children from YouTube or TikTok or whatever the current craze is, but these differences just flow into and out of their lives with ease.
Children will literally spend hours staring at a screen.
They do not have the normal indicators that they have spent time on the devices though, their schedules are still dictated by us the parent, and I would be lying if I said that I haven’t found it easier to get things done when the girls are sat happily wandering down a YouTube spiral or making videos and editing them to share with friends.
But of course that is flawed because it is easy for us to lose track of time and before you know it hours have gone by and all you have seen of them is the back of the iPad or phone, the reaction is usually to tell them to stop playing with the devices and go out and play, or at the very least do something different, today I did this very thing and was horrified when they both stood outside in the garden looking a little lost, my youngest daughter wanted to play a game with her sister but she was sulking a little brought on (I suspect by the manor in which she was asked to put the iPad down and go out and play) so my youngest became very frustrated and chaos began to ensue, the problem was that they had no real alternative easily at hand, the virtual worlds that our children disappear into are so vast and colourful offering the ability to manipulate their surroundings at will and offer instant gratification that they are honestly a hard act to follow, but instead of getting just as stressed as they were I bundled them in the car and drove to a local bargain store and let them choose a selection of toys to play with back at home, I was surprised at how engaged they were, they picked and we headed home with inflatable limbo, a cricket set and some devices that you swing round your ankle and attempt to skip over with the other foot, as well as hula hoops.
A far cry from the 4k HD screens they had been so upset to leave these things grabbed their imaginations the way they always would have done before iPads came along, they were bright, fun, and cheap there was no requirement to be careful with them they were their to have fun and possibly more importantly they worked better if you had somebody there to play with.
The afternoon went amazingly they played and apart from one relapse where my youngest had a minute on the iPad before putting it down to see what her sister was doing (she ultimately found a lot more fun in knocking over the Limbo pole as her sister was going under it) there was very few tears and they went to bed tired and happy.
We cannot remove these devices from our children completely, I know there are several schools of thought on the subject but it seems impossible to me and as far as I am concerned it would be damaging, information is imparted through these devices, our children are educated and inspired through them, and they will only play a bigger and bigger role in their futures, to deny them this would be to isolate them from their peer groups at best and at worst completely cut them off from career paths / life skills that they will need in the very near future, an indicator of just how fast we have moved from when I was a child, I can remember a VCR with a remote control on a wire being amazing, the ultimate in luxury, in contrast when my youngest daughter was three she became very frustrated that the TV screen didn’t react to her pressing it, as she just expected to be able to navigate the menus by touch, I still have issues picking up the phone in case a get an automated answering service at the other end, whereas they will happily have entire conversations with Siri.
My point is that we should not be scared of the focus and fascination that they exhibit with these devices, and nor should we take it personally when we try and speak to them and get a mere grunt of recognition, children will do fun things 100 percent and if we observe it we get the same response when they are engaged in physical games or playing with friends absent of any devices.
There is a balance inherent in life with all things and this is just another example of finding that balance, but while everybody at the minute seems to be vilifying tablets and phones in the hands of children we tend to forget that it is us that has put these devices in their hands and we need to remember that we need to moderate their use, as well as be responsible for securing these devices, and a good engaging alternative will smooth the way.