BY Ian Dunn | October 26 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


Smartphones may lead to foolish parenting

“Parents will always worry about their kids, but increasingly they fret over what they’re not doing rather than what they are”, says Ian Dunn.

Parents will always worry about their kids, but increasingly they fret over what they’re not doing rather than what they are.

That’s the gist of a survey out this week which suggests that more than half of parents believe their children spend too much time sitting down because they are on mobile phones or games consoles.

The poll indicated that 54 per cent of parents were worried that screen time was fuelling their child’s inactive lifestyle, with more than a third (36 per cent) saying device use meant their children did not play outside enough.

This will not be a surprise to many parents. The joys of Peppa Pig, Minecraft or Fortnite are no mystery to households up and down the land. The range of digital entertainment today is truly staggering when you think about it.

Netflix grants access to millions of hours of TV shows, on YouTube you can hear basically any song in history and computer games are designed by geniuses to be totally absorbing. It’s a far cry from four TV channels and a wireless.

So it’s not surprising that kids are hooked on screen time: five, six, seven hours gazing into those brightly coloured rectangles. Which is almost certainly doing something to them—even if we’re not yet sure what it is.

The research remains unclear. On the one hand the data suggests that use of smartphones collates with declining teenage pregnancy, and use of alcohol and drugs, which is good. On the other, mental health problems skyrockets among the same group.

It’s easy to look at the young like a different species—and the experience of childhood and being a teenager is clearly wildly different from the last couple of generations. That will have an impact.

But too often we overlook how we’ve changed. Parents are every bit as addicted to smartphones at their kids. Go out to the swing park, and the dads, are craftily checking the football results on their phones. At the softplay mum is scrolling through Facebook while their toddler goes headfirst down the slide.

I’m not judging—I’ve been that parent. More times than I’d care to admit. I’m guilty as sin when it comes to mindlessly reaching for my phone, any time.

And while the impact of children staring at a screen may not be clear, I’m 100 per cent confident the impact of a child feeling ignored because their dad had to get the last word in on Twitter is 100 per cent bad.

However while children can be tricky to control, parents theoretically have control over their own behaviour.

So I’ve been trying to make an effort to focus on being present. A prayer helps I find, even a quick Our Father or Hail Mary can still the mind. And it’s never not worth it.

New parents are often too prone to bemoaning their lost sleep to sing the joys of small children, but they are sources of constant joy.

God only knows what sort of world they’ll grow up into it–but it’s better to share it with them.

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