“No, you don’t need one!”
I tweeted this conversation the other day. When Miss 9 asked if she could have a phone, that was my reply: “You don’t need one!”
She doesn’t. Who would she call? She has a tablet now [bring your own device at school saw to that] and she loves it. That’s enough, surely?
We were surprised at how little she actually uses the tablet. I’d been worried that she would turn into a gamer, constantly attached to her device. In fact, she rarely plays and when she does, it tends to be when she’s had enough of her siblings and wants some time out. It’s nice. And a little embarrassing – I have to admit, she shows more self-regulation than I do.
However, it’s the social networking I keep checking in on [yes, yes, terrible. I know.] She hasn’t got to that yet and still plays maths games and chess. And Lego. Oh, and some game where she has to keep a pet alive, which did cause an argument over a recent long weekend until I remembered my own obsession with a Tamagotchi pet in my teens. Feeling like a total hypocrite, I let that one go.
The thing is, I’m not that anti technology for children. I don’t think that anything appalling will happen if Mr 2 plays Lego Duplo games for half an hour while I see the doctor, or if Miss 5 wants to play spelling games while waiting for dinner. This is the world we live in, after all, and I do feel that denying children access to this technology can be putting them at a disadvantage. Part of this is related to their ability to get by in an increasingly digital world, but a larger part of my viewpoint here is life skills.
Don’t go nuts on me here – obviously too much screen time is a bad thing. Too much of anything is a bad thing. However, keeping children safe online has to start with a conversation and that conversation can’t happen if they are restricted from using technology. My daughter understands that she can only have the internet on [as most games require] when she is downstairs with us. I’ve explained that nasty people also use the internet and she is not to message anyone without checking with me first, even if she thinks she knows them. Just like she wouldn’t speak to a ‘real life’ stranger.
My children also know that too much screen time makes them ratty, which is why we limit it. Just like we limit unhealthy foods. We have conversations about healthy food, exercise, using our imaginations and playing together rather than playing with a computer.
Reading that back, I sound like a smug parent. Ugh! Don’t worry – there was screaming yesterday when I confiscated the tablet and ten minutes of tears the day before from Mr 2 when I told him he couldn’t watch Thomas the Tank Engine. It can be quite painful on the ears…but I comfort myself that they are learning to regulate and achieve balance. I might have to assist with that now, but, as is the case with Miss 9 85% of the time, they will learn to do this themselves. I think that is invaluable…and something I need to work on myself as well.