I am worried. I mean I’m always slightly worried, because I’m a mother and worrying is my job. But lately there’s been greater cause for concern and worry. I hate to worry. It seems pointless because the things I worry about are invariably things I can do nothing about and because it ages my brow only further (this is not something I classify as a worry, more a vanity, which is negligible in the face of the Bigger Things).
My current Main Worry is that My children are spoiled and entitled. But on closer examination and ‘unpacking’ of the issue (I used that term because it’s so ridiculous and trendy; people are no longer examining issues but ‘unpacking’ them like they are luggage. This is not a worry either, just an irritation. Should I yell ‘get orff my lawn’ while we’re here?), this spoiled-entitled worry stems from the problem of SCREEN TIME.
We’ve had twin anarchy for the last twenty four hours because we wouldn’t let the almost ten year olds take their i-pads on a school excursion. The school had given permission for ‘devices’ to be taken along, to help pass the time on the bus trip. I said, “Rubbish, you can look out the window, chat to your friends, sing songs, watch the world go by…” which is something that evidently only an old person says but I don’t care because I believe it to be true.
I was struck suddenly by the urgent need to stop shoving things into our children’s’ doing nothing time. Because when nothing is happening, imaginations are required. And a well developed imagination is utterly essential for all sorts of things and not just silly meggish things but also problem solving and communication and joy. What is more important than joy?
What happens when one day they are forced to take on menial work, which most young people have to do while striving for Their Thing? Their brains won’t know what to do without minecraft or nintendo or whatever the hell else they do whenever there’s a quiet moment. I am sure there must be important clinical reasons for a brain to daydream. Ooop, there we go, a quick google search reveals that too much screen time affects all sorts of cognitive function.
But brain degradation isn’t even my immediate worry. My children only have their i-pads or telly for a few hours on weekends. It is more the extreme reaction when I said no to devices on the bus. I’m talking wailing from the bedroom for almost an hour, then a complete withdrawal of affection this morning. When did refusing i-pad access equate to drowning their kitten? I mean I knew operating systems were getting more powerful but this is ridiculous. Have artificial, digital world s become our children’s godgiven right?
Not in my house, not on their nellies (whatever their nellies are). I have since popped the i-pads in the too-hard basket; they may never return. Everyone tells me to go with my gut when it comes to mothering. My gut is telling me to throw the damn things away. I am tempted, when next the school tells me that ‘devices’ are allowed, to send the children off with my vibrator. I mean that’s a device. (Inappropriate I know, I would never do that. Unless they carry on like that again).
The excursion has been and gone and they had a lovely time even without their devices. They were back to their normal nice-ish selves when I collected them this afternoon and appeared to have forgotten about i-pads altogether. But still I worry.
64% of 18 to 24 year olds didn’t bother to vote in Britain’s EU referendum. I’m not about to blame screens and devices for their apathy – I think these young people likely had Europeanism instilled in them and thought the referendum a bit of a joke. But it was raining and you know, a large percentage of them, if they weren’t bonking someone, were probably on devices. Social media is responsible for a whole generation of inward looking people. Not just youth of course but mostly. Youth are pretty self centred anyway; give them selfies, status updates, tweets, insta likes and snap chats, coupled with a rainy day and you have WHAT REFERENDUM? When I was 24, Australia held a referendum to decide whether we should become a republic. I cast an informed vote, but only just. If gaming had been what it is today I might never have left home.
The attacks on Istanbul today – I can’t help but blame the power of the screen for that too, at least to an extent. The suicide bombs have all the hallmarks of an ISIS attack. ISIS wouldn’t be what it is without the digital age. “Thanks to its mastery of modern digital tools, which have transformed the dark arts of making and disseminating propaganda. Never before in history have terrorists had such easy access to the minds and eyeballs of millions” – Brendan Koerner, Wired I know, there are powers of good that find equally effective digital portals, but still, I can’t help wishing I was raising my children in a simpler time. Bullying, withdrawal, introversion, radicalization, brainwashing and other dark arts are all so accessible and clandestine when the internet is handy.
My gut is telling me no.
Sorry for rant. It probably makes no sense. I welcome people telling me I’m over reacting, it might salve my worried mind.
PS can we use the screens for more good and somehow pop a little viral idea into the Russian internet that dairy products are a new superfood? I have it on good authority that if Russia import more dairy products, they will hoist us dairy farmers out of the current global pricing crisis much more quickly.
PPS also welcome are any ideas on how to turn i-pads into crucibles of creativity
thank you xx