A quote from Barnaby Lenon (chairman of the Independent Schools Council and a former headmaster of Harrow School) summed up my viewpoint exactly when he said that, “parents need to be stricter, they need to be tougher”. When discussing the use of phones and computers, he said that “children will misuse the technology if it is not carefully controlled. Parents matter hugely – most of the abuse is not happening in classrooms, but in private houses.”
The Times revealed that a survey at the end of August revealed that almost one in 10 children has a mobile phone by the age of five and that parents spend an average of £125 a year on gadgets for youngsters.
As many of you know, my little girl is nearly 3 years old. In one class that we go to, she is the only child who doesn’t own an ipad. Last week she asked me if she could have an iPad for her birthday. My heart was so very sad that my little girl really wanted something that she only knew to be fun (she has used her grandma and her babysitters ipad on occasion to play a couple of games and to watch Happy Feet 2!), but that I was going to say no to. Do you know why I will say no to an iPad for her? Because monitoring its use is a slippery slope and I know that, in our very busy house, we are likely to increase our children’s use of it accidentally. That accidental increase in use will then turn in to unmonitored use. And do you know what research very clearly shows? One disturbing image, particularly sexual imagery, changes the way that neurons fire and creates proteins in the brain that cannot be undone. I am not willing to take that chance with my babes. I know my limits as a mum – some mums are able to monitor all computer use, all phone use, all screen use. I am not. The screen time that Annie has is so as can get something else done. Do you know what happened when I searched on youtube for a video of a hippo this morning? A misleading video with ‘hippo’ in the title came up and very nearly showed me an image that, let’s just I did not want even myself to see let alone my child!
We don’t have a TV in our house, not because I don’t like any screen time, don’t like TV or do not want to be in the world. Certainly, I do not want to be of the world, but I like to be in the world. The world is a great place with great people and the TV can be a fab source of information and discussion, as can the internet. In our house, having a projector as opposed to a TV means that we view the films before our children do or at least we view them together. We can also hook the computer up to it to watch a programme, but it does mean that we consciously make decisions about what we see and hear even when tired and it is so easy to channel hop and watch things that you otherwise wouldn’t watch.
Film time is a very precious family time to us, where we often snuggle up or have dinner in the front room watching something. We do this once a week (usually) and it is a great family time. Not having a TV also means that Ludo and I don’t accidentally waste the limited time we have together just flicking through channels. Not having a TV means that we eat dinner together and chat and it means that my children are not entertained by the screen, when they should be entertained by me. Don’t get me wrong, we watch programmes together and we watch films. It’s just that my time with my family is so precious and, because God has clearly called me to run Kadayer and NETwork Interventions and to help other children, parents, individuals and families, I have to maximise my time with my own family. We got rid of our TV when I realised I was watching neighbours, by the way! We just decided that when we moved in to our first married home together we wouldn’t get a TV so as I couldn’t accidentally flick the night away. It continued when we had Annie and, although we discussed getting a TV recently, we decided against it for the next season.
My husband now switches our router off at bed time. Not because my children will wake up and use the computer (they would have no idea how), or because he or I are tempted to watch anything that we shouldn’t. He switches it off because I am tempted to check emails when I wake at night or will read an article in the night from my phone. It’s a detrimental habit and he and I know our limits. As individuals and as a family it is really important to know our limits. If we know that having facebook on our phone means that we check it too often, why not just remove it from our phone? Some battles we simply don’t have to fight. For us, a TV would pose too great a risk to our family’s lifestyle. I have seen too many families whose sole source of entertainment quickly becomes the TV, or the TV becomes the only voice audible at dinnertime. For my family, that it is not a risk I am willing to take. So right now, we don’t have a TV and my daughter is certainly not going to have an ipad any time soon.
For those of you who do have lots of computers and TVs in family rooms or children’s rooms, how about a lock at certain times, using Net Nanny and turning the router off at bed time?
Just some food for thought this Monday