My child was born to look at screens. Present him with a glowing square of any size and he'll stare at it for hours, with his expression slowly changing from gormless to animated to gormless again. When Louis is looking at a screen you could tattoo a Numberjack on his arse or audition him for Toddlers and Tiaras dressed as a prostitute and he wouldn't even notice.
For that reason I admit I use the TV or computers quite a lot when a) I'm making dinner b) drinking wine with other harrassed mothers and c) hiding in a corner suffering from exhaustion. It helps me to do important things, like not go mental. So when you're with my child for any length of time, he may sing the theme tune to Hotel Trubble, or exhort you to visit 'www.bbc.co.uk forward slash cBeebies.' He's like a little animated TV channel in his own right. LOUIS TV (Sky digital 6715) is a singing, dancing loony station that shows Tweety Pie/Snoopy/Gigglebiz mash ups, interspersed with him trying to describe what happened in Deadly 60 and then having a giant tantrum at 2pm.
I can't pretend I'm completely OK with this. According to the great accepted wisdom of parenting, (ie the Daily Mail) too much screen time is deemed bad. It delays speech, it does something to their neural pathways, it makes them think that Mr Tumble is their Dad - that sort of thing. You hear about iPhone obsessed babies who swipe their parent's faces with a little finger, hoping to change their Mum's miserable chops for a picture of a zebra or something. Instead, kids should be outside, experiencing nature and making forts from cardboard boxes, right? Even though I didn't enjoy doing any of those things as a child, MY child should be doing that, RIGHT?
Now Louis is old enough to play his friend's Super Mario Kart racing game, the amount of time he spends staring at screens is becoming one of my biggest neuroses. Of course, I forget that looking at screens is all everyone does. I check my phone 879 million times a day with my gob hanging open. I'm staring at my laptop now. I watch TV in the evenings, while live tweeting and ebaying and texting. Screens are everywhere! (Charlie Brooker once a very funny article about that here.)
And while being outside and playing with pebbles is OK, a 4 year old is awake for about 13 hours a day with no nap. So they're going to have to be magic fucking glowing pebbles with the voice of Michael Gambon if they're going to entertain them all day. Anyway, mothers can't always be doing imaginative play and swimming lessons and making faces out of peas and mashed potato. Life is boring sometimes. Let them relax, let them veg out, leave them to it. Let's face it, YOU wouldn't want some berk with a timer coming in and yelling 'COME ON! TIME TO SWITCH OFF THE X-FACTOR AND MAKE A CHARMING ROBOT OUT OF EGG BOXES!'
So I'm trying not to worry about it or feel guilty if I feel like cranking up the cBeebies website or sticking on the telly. He's not going to grow up to be an emotionally disconnected, unfeeling potato whose best friend is Pippin from Come Outside, is he? No.
Mind you, at my Nana's funeral the other week, he did look at me with big eyes and say 'Mummy? Can I play Angry Birds?'
6 months ago