Listen To Your Instincts

Posted by in September's Magazine

Dear Mrs MacPickle,

I write with a tediously first world and twenty first century problem. How does one limit ‘screen time’ for ones children? Or how does one ignore the constant pressure to have some sort of policy in place regarding screen time and children? I can scarcely enjoy a moment on my smartphone/tablet/laptop without being bombarded with articles about the damage technology is doing to our children. If I try and limit my kids, they complain they are left out at school. And I don’t want them to grow up into unemployable luddites.


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Please Mrs MacP, send me some wise words.                                                                                                                                   Anon

Oh dear. Yes this is an omnipresent quandary at the moment isn’t it? And I love the way we all talk about the ‘pressures’ of technology as if we were being psychologically burdened by highly effective garlic crushers or vacuum cleaners with too many attachments – though maybe we are to a certain degree. And all this peer pressure among kids for gadgets and gizmos makes me nostalgic for the days when all you had to envy was the little bastard who was allowed to bring in Mousetrap at the end of term (or anyone with a Soda Stream).

To an extent I am tempted to put worrying about kids screen time in the same middle-class bullshit category as worrying about their sugar intake, but as a woman whose kids would be more likely to think of ‘tablet’ as a type of fudge rather than an ipad I do have to make a distinction because, to be honest, I do hate my kids using screens. But maybe you don’t? So here is my advice. Listen to your instincts. If your offspring are doing something that instinctively makes you feel sad, then don’t let them do it very much. Don’t bargain, don’t make rules of entitlement for certain numbers of hours, don’t make screen time a reward. And if they moan that it isn’t fair, remember that children can’t be reminded too often that LIFE ISN’T FAIR.

Most important of all, make sure you are not having too much screen time either. Let them see you knit, or practice a musical instrument, or grow vegetables, or do yoga. Because, if there is one thing I seem to here people more anxious about than their kids ‘technology’ lives, it’s there own. And that’s where the answer is simple. JUST DO SOMETHING ELSE. 

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