Nine truisms about kids and computers
by Jackie A
2 months ago
1. They love them almost as much as they love you - maybe even more
If you measure love in terms of time spent with a loved one, the merciless truth is their relationship with their screen wins. Overwhelmingly. Kids and teens aged 8 to 18 now spend an average of more than seven hours a day looking at screens. When was the last time they lavished seven hours of undivided attention on you? Or you on them? It’s a love we parents don’t dare to name.
2. They are really good at finding confiscated phones/Wii consoles/tablets etc
Your well worn weapon in this triangular tug-of-love is to use their tech addiction as a weapon.…to beat them. This is most commonly enacted by impounding whatever piece of tech is their most loved and hiding it. The irrationality of the square root of 2 may rightly confound them, but boy can they work out where you’ve concealed their true love in a tiny corner of a three storey house. (NB: take it to the office).
3. Their obsession makes them seriously inventive
The most ingenious recent example of this came from Twitter-addicted Dorothy from America whose tweet via her mum’s smart fridge went viral: “I do not know if this is going to tweet I am talking to my fridge what the heck my Mom confiscated all of my electronics again”. (Whose needs a full stop? Kids never use grammar). Anyway, who even knew you could do that? I kind of love Dorothy - I have one of my own at home. (A Dorothy, not a smart fridge - what the heck, I’m not going to get one of those now!)
4. Their “electronics” make them really irritable
On a recent commute I sat next to an emotionally disconnected father holding his phone showing Paw Patrol up to the face of his three year old son in a buggy. Neither spoke to each other. It was one of the most soul-destroying things I’d ever witnessed on a subway in a lifetime of weird commuting experiences. When the show finished, the child was in a grizzly, comatose grump and refused to eat his breakfast of a banana. Hauling kids off a never ending game of Fornite procures the same result, but with more door slamming and vocal protestations. Going computer cold turkey is tough, mostly on the parents.
5. Children are supreme screen smashers
Never, ever lend them your phone or tablet. They will at some stage throw them/drop them onto your Umbrian grey sandstone tiled floor, leaving your screen looking like an ordinance survey map of the Okavango Delta. Their ability to continually smash screens is compounded by their refusal to use ‘ugly’ smash-proof cases, preferring instead something glittery and useless from Skinnydip. Our family’s smash record goes to the 19 year old who had a phone for precisely 17 minutes before it shattered onto the pavement as he ran for the bus the very day he got it.
6. They are prolific phone losers
One in four children under the age of SIX now has a smart phone. I personally find this tantamount to child abuse because these kids are essentially being handed a sophisticated computer. They have no understanding of its powers nor its monetary value. Ergo it regularly gets lost along with sports bags and shoes and coats and all the other detritus that trails abandoned in their wake. The habitual Search For The Lost Phone That’s Out Of Battery is one of modern family life’s great curses. Last known location? Booore-Ring as Killing Eve’s Villanelle would drawl.
7. Forget toys or anything interactive in a lovely big box - tech is all they want now for birthdays or Christmas. Newer, shinier, less smashed.
Gone are the days when there was satisfaction in wrapping a gift of something they had to piece together and physically play with (RIP Toy ‘R’ Us). They prefer all serious presents to come in stark white with a discrete bitten apple logo.
8. Take their tech away for a seriously long time and after a while their sweetness returns.
We once took away a teen’s phone for a whole summer. I know - don’t ask. It was quite serious. A-N-Y-W-A-Y. They moan for a time but soon they find it freeing. Ours became “happier”. One mother from Cornwall confiscated her son’s phone for a whole year. Within six weeks his marks improved, he became more talkative and wanted to go outside again and play with his little brother again. Tough love wins out if you have an iron will.
9. Tech is such a God to children that when all else fails, enlist it (and a few white lies) to help you survive this parenting malarkey.
I used to tell mine the motion sensor in their room for the house alarm was a camera - “ I can see if you get out of bed at night!” I’d warn. These days, parents of young kids assign mystery apps to dispense discipline. My favourite is: “There’s an app that tells me if you have really brushed your teeth or not.” Instead of “brushed your teeth”, feel free to insert most child related chores. Totally works on the under seven year olds.
Once you can no longer trick them, revert to No 8.
Good luck. You will need it and more.