At the start of 2019 the press kindly informed us of a study carried out by paediatricians on the impact of screen time on our children. The study reveals that screen time isn’t actually as bad for our children as we were led to believe.  Good news for some and, for the sceptics amongst us, not so good. 

Years ago, or it was when I was a child, we were told ‘watching too much TV will give us square eyes.  Well I can safely assure you, it didn’t.  Then the invention of the video came along, ‘don’t just put your child in front of the TV watching videos, it’s not good for them’  people would say.  Or people would say, you need to let children play outside, not just watch videos.  We survived that too.

Around about the same time the Walkman became fashionable, everyone walking around plugged into their own word of personal music taste everywhere you went, blasting it out through headphones instead of in your bedroom or the car.  Again we were told ‘don’t play music too loud, you will be deaf.’ I don’t know anyone my age who is actually deaf from wearing headphones too loud, but I do remember coming back from a live gig with my ears still ringing for the next two days, and I’m still not deaf.

Moving forward a few years gaming was the next big must have, these computers and consoles were brought into children’s homes and they played them day and night until the novelty wore off, then a new release went on sale and the process started all over again.  Football games, shoot‘em up games, war games and games about stealing cars, ‘children will grow up violent if their time isn’t controlled on these games.’ These would be the new comments about the new trend, however people I know who played these games didn’t grow up to be violent.  Although I do question the age of some children playing inappropriate games bought for them by parents! 

The latest cause for concern with children and their development and behaviour is technology.  The internet, mobile phones, apps, websites, in fact anything they can access on these devices.  Technology is supposedly bad for children, it causes segregation and addiction, it’s used as a babysitter, it causes children to be anxious.  Didn’t we hear all those comments about TV, video, Walkman and game consoles? 

I’m not suggesting that any of these new developments haven’t had a negative impact on children at some point, however it isn’t long lasting, the novelty wears off and they move on to different and new developments and trends.  How many of us, as adults, have tried the latest diet, exercise class that became a fad and maxed out on it until you got fed up with it or a new ‘something’ came along to replace it?  Did you really get addicted to it, or did you just enjoy it so much you wanted to keep doing it? 

The future developments that will be the next craze for children will, no doubt, bring cause for concern too.  We don’t even know what they’ll be but can guarantee they’ll have negative comments about them.  As times moves on we’ll have forgotten the comments we made about TV being bad for us, or that the invention of the microwave destroyed family meal time.   It’ll just become our norm as all past causes for concern have.  We just seem to be fixated on the next fad and bang on about it. 

Now we know technology doesn’t really have an impact on children’s development, and the younger generation will rely heavily on technology, even more so than us, it’s time to allow children to embrace it.  If we don’t allow children to engage with it, they’ll certainly be left behind in the future job market.  Technology is developing faster than we could ever have imagined.  Who would ever have thought that all the above developments, TV, radio, Walkman, gaming could be done on one device, the mobile phone, with the exception of cooking your dinner, but who knows? 

Maybe we need to ask ourselves, is it addiction to games, or is it that children and young people are trying to satisfy their natural competitive need?  They don’t seem to get this need met in school when sports day is about the taking part and not the winning.  Maybe they’re taking ownership of that part of their natural development. 

There’s too much red tape stifling children from being creative and exploring risk, but is it really for their benefit?  There is often discussion around children being unable to self-regulate, so how can they manage this when they struggle to do anything other than what is prescribed to them.  Maybe children have an innate need to self-regulate, they can’t get this by being supressed, but being free on the devices available to them allows them the ability to develop this skill. 

At The Worrinots we would like to know who comes up with these negative statements in the first place and why do we listen to them.  Especially when there is no research or evidence behind them to suggest they are true, because many adults are hanging on to them rather than deciding for themselves what is best for their children.  Give the future work force opportunities to engage with technology and develop the skills they will need to succeed.

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