Was it because we didn't like what was on TV and wanted to protect them? Not primarily.
The reason was that we considered the time that would be spent watching TV if we had it and our questions were:
1. "What might they be doing with this time that would be better than watching TV?"
2. "Will we be tempted to use TV as a babysitter/time filler in a way that woulld limit their development rather than help it?"
As technology has developed we now have multiple screens for children to watch. I face the same problems with my 15 year old as every mother. Julia spends quite a lot of time on screens communicating with her friends and watching movies.
I notice with concern the increased number of times I hear parents say
"It's ok I can talk because my (young) child is on the iPhone"
"Now while we are having coffee you guys can play on my phone".
"When we are traveling in the car, you can play on the device.'
My concerns are three-fold:
Firstly that we are raising a generation of children who frankly have boring lives at home. Because they are quiet and occupied and we as parents are tired, we forget that their world is small.
We forget that we should be opening their world to them. After school and weekends can be times of talking, going for a walk, listening to stories, having free dramatic play with friends, playing with lego, drawing pictures, baking cookies for granddad. We forget that if we don't do this the child's happy memories are scant, the child's world is small, the child's vocabulary is poor and therefore the child's ability to think and problem solve and create and innovate is significantly reduced.
And then it becomes the school's job to try to help children catch up on what they really need most from home.
Secondly, we are raising a generation of children who are not well 'attached' to their parents. Their parents are distracted on their own devices and the child is not getting the concentrated care and attention that he needs.
There is a name for a condition these children develop over time: Insecure Avoidant Attachment
What happens often is that children know they are loved to a degree, but when they really need their parent to help them he is busy on the cell phone and is ignored. "Daddy I have lost my shoes, I need help...but I won’t ask Dad because he won’t help because I have tried too many times and been ignored too many times."
These children become increasingly anxious. They have looked for support in the past and not found it so they feel on their own and full of anxiety. The parent might think the child is independent and resilient, but in fact he is trying to manage the stress. These children looks easy to manage because they never ask, they hang around the edges, they wander around, they are pleasant but easily overlooked, are unmotivated, are capable but not achieving. When disappointed with a relationship they don’t invest, they begin to say ‘leave me alone’.
Thirdly, we are raising a generation with a fixation to their screens. Children who spend so much time on screens at home that, when given the opportunities that school provides for physical, social, and thinking experiences, they turn them down. Compulsivity like this also closes children's worlds down.
At school we have a wide variety of activities that broaden the children's world.
When I was a mum of young children and life was busy I ended up with a long list of ideas of things I could do with the kids when I was tired and they were grumpy or needed to 'do something'. I will share the list with you in a coming blog post because it saved brain strain and helped me give the kids opportunities with minimum effort on my part. I also used to tell them that if they were bored it was because they were boring!! It is important for children to learn to take initiative and make the opportunities they have for varied kinds of play.
It is very hard to be a parent today. We are tired and stressed and distracted ourselves.
But this time passes sooo quickly and the memories and effects of our interaction with our children lingers long.
Let's resist the temptation to pass our kids the iPhone for distraction purposes and think:
"What might they be doing with this time that would be better than watching an iPad screen?"