So guys, in case you haven’t noticed we are living in an increasingly tech-obsessed world. Now me and D aren’t ones for the latest gadgets, we have a smartphone each, share a laptop, have a flat-screen tv, a PS4, and that is about it. (If you are planning to burglarize us, I wouldn’t waste your time, my phone is smashed to buggery and the TV is at least six years old. Pop over for a brew though, would be nice to have a criminal underworld pal.) However, I know that little R will be growing up in a world where the latest gadgets, and the internet, play a role that I can’t even comprehend in his life.
I guess we are ‘milennials’ in that we can still remember a world pre-internet. When I was in primary school the computer suite being built was A BLOODY BIG DEAL. We had lessons on how to use Paint, and make a Powerpoint about our summer holidays – but our teacher also used a slide projector to share photos of her trip to Africa, and a new white board was an upgrade from the chalk smeared blackboard. We used to play games Pinball and Minesweeper on the computers, Windows 98 was banging, and our parents started carrying around these veritable bricks of mobile phones.
Fast forward to secondary school and hello MSN you little babe. I stayed up way too late messaging everyone I knew all at once. Then skipping school to listen to downloaded songs off Limewire, whilst being tickled pink by Salad Fingers. D discovered the wacky world of internet porn, and along with teenage boys the world over rejoiced. Incidentally I remember accidentally finding a porn site when I was about eight, looking for clothes, I typed in ‘Tammy girl’ to the search bar. There no longer appears to be a Tammy girl porn site, but alas we will always miss those clothes.
Anyway I digress. Point is, its not like that anymore. I see children in buggies watching baby shark on their iPads, asking Alexa to play nursery rhymes, and allegedly one in four children under the age of six have a smart phone. I’m not even going to pretend I am au fait with the latest Internet trends.
I don’t know how I feel about R growing up in this crazy world. On one hand I want him to revel in it, to try every new gadget that he wants to, to explore the limits because that is where the future is. He is probably going to see amazing new horizons in technology, and why not enjoy it? But then I think about the dangers, about how social media presents a ‘filtered’ version of life, how we can look at Instagram and think I need this, I need that, they are doing so much better than me. I never want him to feel that he isn’t good enough. Equally, I want him to love nature, being outdoors and exploring away from screens. I want him to run around and build dens outside, know what conkers and acorns are, be able to name birds, swim in rivers and lakes, and to truly appreciate the amazing world we live in.
So how the bloody hell am I going to balance this?! Just another thing on the list of mothering standards that I haven’t got a fucking clue how to do.
One thing I am trying to do is limit D and I’s ‘screen time’ around R. When we sit down to dinner, phones are put away. This means we are more likely to chat abut our day, to engage and interact as a family, and I hope that our dinner times always remain this way. We also don’t watch too much TV with him. Obviously we do whack on Paw Patrol and the babe that is Peppa Pig, especially on a morning because 5am is just too damn early to wind the bobbin up. However I try to avoid having it on in the background at all – I don’t really like this as a habit anyway.
But I am also thinking to maybe get a kiddy tablet or an iPad with kid-friendly games/apps on it for when he is a little older. Is this even a thing? Clearly haven’t done my research!! There’s lots of sensory apps, and games that are suitable for little ones and I do know these are a thing (great targeted advertising on Instagram tells me so).
I am also trying to balance out the tech-heavy toys that we have with other elements of play. At my last count we have ten toys that each play different music, light up and do various other whizzy things. R likes to set them all off one after the other, usually at 5am to accompany ‘Paw Patrol, Paw Patrol we’ll be there on the double’. It is not the one I am telling you now. Anyway, he loves the plastic, brightly coloured gee-gaws, but I am striving to introduce more wooden toys into the mix. Not only do they age well, can often become used in imaginative play when older, there’s the sheer tactile nature of them. When outside I encourage him to touch plants (safe ones of course), pick up bits of grass and sticks, and tell him the names of flowers, bugs, trees, birds that we see. Hopefully by introducing him to nature at such a young age, he will want to play outdoors and love it as much as I do.
So I guess that was a bit of a ramble hey? Sometimes I just like to splash my worries and thoughts across this little corner of the internet. There’s two stories which I have been told from health visitors which stick in my head and make this a concern of mine. Firstly, at our antenatal classes, we were told to talk to our child. LOL, duhhhhh that’s obvious amiright? Well no actually. More children are entering school and being registered as somewhere on the autistic spectrum because they are not building up the crucial social and language skills in their early years. We were told that this has been linked to parents spending more time on their phones not interacting with their children, and children spending a lot of time in front of screens. The second one is when I discussed reading with the health visitor, we were given a brilliant little pack of books when we registered R’s birth and our health visitor told me details of all the local libraries and story times etc. I made a slightly sarcastic comment, something about R not reading War and Peace yet, and she frowned at me and told me of children going into primary school that didn’t know to turn a page… they would try to swipe it.
Maybe they are scaremongering tactics but they have stuck in my head. Especially when I catch me and D sat next to each other both on our phones. Or realise that R aged ten months knows how to swipe the notifications on my phone. And take a selfie! Definitely time to step back from the screen a bit. (She says typing furiously, don’t worry R is napping)
Do any of you worry about your child and their access/usage of the internet and technology?