This morning I was out with my son (18 months) doing some shopping and then having some morning tea. The family had all woken up late and with getting everyone out of the door on time I didn’t get a chance to have breakfast. So sitting down and having an egg on toast with a coffee was a necessity. Like most toddlers, my son doesn’t always want to sit still and once he finished his babyccino he wanted to get up an run. I needed to finish my breakfast.
So I gave him my phone, opened the pictures and shared his happiness as he saw pictures of myself, my daughters and our family as a whole. While we were sitting there, minding our own business an older lady (maybe 60s / 70s) came up and said “what a pity he’s on your phone. It’s not good these days how they’re babysitters”, smiled at me and then walked off.
I was shocked. Apart from the nerve of someone random coming up and interrupting my breakfast, she then went to comment on my parenting?!? Now I’m really clear on the type of mum I want to be and how I choose to parent my kids, so I can easily brush off a comment like this. But what about a mum who isn’t so certain? What about a mum who constantly feels like they’re doing a bad job and has this said to them? Imagine how soul-crushing that could be for her.
The thing that gets me the most about the argument about screen time is that older generations judge the younger generations use of smartphones, social media, devices like iPads as an automatically negative thing. They are coming from a set of values and beliefs that these things are not necessary. They didn’t have them when they were young so why should the kids of today?
The last century has seen more technological development than any other. I remember when the internet first came in and look how much it has changed since then! Technology was not a daily part of life while I was growing up (or older generations) because it wasn’t around. There weren’t industries built on it. It was a luxury, not a necessity.
However, now it is part of life, whether older generations want to accept it or not. It is therefore essential that our kids are exposed to it.
My kids are going to need to know how to code (or at least understand what that is). They need to be computer literate for school. They need to understand how social media can be a positive aspect of our lives. They need to understand about protecting themselves online. The best way to do this is to actually expose them to technology.
Technology and screentime don’t have to be bad!
There are endless educational apps available for all different age groups, and yes, even toddlers!
My daughters know all about Google and how to access Siri on my phone because we use it as a tool to explore the world. If my kids ask me a question that I don’t know, rather than make up an answer or ignore the question, we go and look it up! Only the other week we were watching videos together on YouTube about the moon phases and its rotation and position in relation to the sun. I didn’t remember any of specifics from high school science so I showed my daughters how to find the information!
I’m a single mum who runs a business and there are sometimes when my daughter has to be on her iPad if I am doing something time sensitive or have a client phone call. If she spends an hour playing her Montessori number games while I’m in the office, who cares?
Now, of course, kids spending all day in front of the TV or screen for hours on end can be detrimental when it takes away from their development. Our kids need to be active, develop social relationships, spend time outside, spend time together as a family, go to school or extracurricular activities. And they also need to spend time on technology.
The jobs that expected to grow the most by the time my children have finished school and are choosing further education pathways (be that University, Colleges, TAFE, apprenticeships etc…) are in the technology sector.
Their schooling will inevitably expose them to technology. My daughter in Kindergarten was already using computers and iPads. But it’s not just the school’s responsibility to facilitate our kid’s technology education. It’s ours as their parents!
When we judge someone we look at them through our own lenses of our values and beliefs, our past experiences and the culture in which we were raised. For this generation and my kids’ generation, familiarity with technology and computer literacy will be of an utmost importance. It will be believed to be an essential part of life and skills associated with the development and maintenance of it will be highly valued. Someone who doesn’t have these values (particularly older generations and those not raised with technology), will naturally see children having screentime as a negative thing.
Hardly a day goes by where another post on Facebook or in the media criticises screentime in kids. Isn’t it time that we focus on the positives and how the rapid development of technology could be a good thing?
We have to think of the bigger picture, think long-term.
I want to raise my children to be the best they can be, to have all the opportunities they can and be able to develop whatever skills they need to be able to succeed in their lives. And because chances are that it will involve technology, I will let my kids, yes even my 18-month-old, play on my phone, play games in their iPads and yes even watch YouTube.
And to the lady in Westfield this morning, how I parent my children is none of your damn business!