Ryan Jarrett, is a lead writer of children's television website, My Kids TV
Screen Time - A Parental Balancing Act
Technology pervades every inch of our modern, appliance filled homes. If Convenience is King, then Entertainment is Queen. The average family house is now home to numerous televisions, DVD players, games consoles, laptops and set-top boxes, not to mention their hand-held cousins - mobiles phones, netbooks and Nintendo DSs in Tooty Frooty colours. These items are a part of our lives. Our generation have grown to accept them; our children's generation are born to expect them.
As a parent I feel I have a duty to let my children be exposed to this gadgetry which has become intrinsic to us. It would not be fair to shy them away completely, denying them the pleasure they can bring or the education they can provide. The PC and the smartphone are the tools with which people work nowadays and by shielding our children from these could we be hindering their later progress in the big wide world? It's hard to say.
I do appreciate the view that there can be too much exposure to media and technology. I am a firm believer in family time, in talking to your children, in shared mealtimes round a dinner table and other more traditional customs. Children can provide some of the most insightful comments and the most amusing conversation - it would be a crime to have their opinions and views homogenised by advertising and peer pressure.
My son, who is nearly 5, is a happy, healthy, intelligent and unique individual. His first exposure to modern media was to the television. As he got older he started showing an interest in the noisy, glowing box in the corner, so we slowly let him watch a couple of minutes of a children's programme. After a while he started to show some preferences to certain shows, but we never forced him to watch one things or another. We limited screen time and we watched the TV with him as he got older, making it a shared bonding experience, rather than a passive experience.
He enjoys music with a real passion. However, whereas when I was younger I would listen to cassette tapes and even records, we don't even own a CD player any more (apart from in the car). All of our music is digital, either stored on our computer or MP3 players, or streamed over the Internet. My son uses Spotify (a fantastic music streaming application) - could he possibly be the youngest user in the world? He listens to Lady Gaga, Snow Patrol, Cheryl Cole and even The Beatles, as well as kids TV theme tunes and more traditional childrens music. He dances and jumps along to these tracks happily, and to him this is the norm.
He owns a DS and he plays on the Wii, but he is not overweight, he has lots of friends and he still plays with his toys. The games he plays are age appropriate and access to these is limited. He has a good imagination and his reading is excellent. The press, both in the UK and globally, present this dichotomy - they want everyone, including our children, to consume media (which, obviously, is in their interests) but we are made to feel bad about over-exposure.
It's not easy being a parent, and we don't ask for medals. We do our best but we have to pick and choose what to believe. Is technology and modern media good or bad? There is no answer - take each experience as it comes, watch your children and decide for yourself. Just don't feel bad or guilty about having to choose, to restrict or to censor.
Thank you Ryan for your great post.