Personally, my answer to this question is no, not yet. We work very hard at finding alternative ways to entertain, stimulate and challenge our children, so that screen time is as limited as possible. They do watch television at some point during most days, but we try to limit it to less than a couple of hours. If we are stuck in due to illness, inclement weather or even waiting for a delivery, there comes a point when the TV is switched off and the children are either invited to play or create with me or asked to amuse themselves. Sometimes they get bored, but this is often just before one of them has a really great idea for a new game to play.
According to a survey carried out by Lenstore, our attitude towards technology is not one shared by all parents. Worryingly, of 2,000 parents surveyed, most were found to allow their 5-7 year old child almost eight hours of screen time or digital play every day, which is hugely different to the 1-2 hours they actually thought was acceptable. Shockingly, almost half of them also admitted that their children used technology, including tablets and mobile phones, without adult supervision. I think these stats are what I find most concerning. Allowing a small child use of their own mobile phone or tablet is one thing, but leaving them to play with it unsupervised is quite another. As we all know, there are many things to be found online that are completely unsuitable for children. Moreover, there are the possible physiological side effects of using screens, as discussed in this blog post by Lenstore. I really don’t think we can know what long term damage exposure to backlit screens may do to our children, particularly with regard to visual development. Of course, there are also the concerns over the rise in obesity in children, discussed in this post here, and how prolonged daily screen time facilitates this.
Something else brought to my attention by this survey and its results was the seemingly skewed priorities of some parents. More than half (52%) of the parents with children aged 2-10 said that they were able to navigate a tablet before learning skills such as swimming and telling the time. They are also more likely to be able to confidently use a mobile phone before being able to read or ride a bike. I actually find these statements quite upsetting; Miss J is five and learnt to read and ride her bike without stabilisers last year. She also has swimming lessons, although her confidence totally outweighs her competence, and has started to learn how to tell the time. Honestly, I do not think she would have mastered these skills had we spent more family time with technology instead of outdoors, embracing the countryside.
Overall, I feel confident that a balance between embracing technology and safeguarding a happy and healthy childhood can be struck; I am also satisfied that we, as a family, are heading in the right direction. As long as my children spend more time playing outdoors than they do on front of a screen, I will be happy.
How about you? Are you shocked or concerned by these statistics, or do you feel that technology is a necessity for children today? I would love to hear your thoughts