Using Technology: A Balancing Act

As parents, we are constantly bombarded by contradicting messages about the best way to raise our children. It makes it a little tricky to work out what you should actually be doing. Since I was pregnant, me and Husband have used a combination of research (by which I mean looking at scientific studies, rather than accepting whatever someone on the internet with no relevant qualifications reckons is correct) and common sense.

We’ve applied this thinking when deciding how often Pip can use the iPad or watch TV. I’ve read lots of blog posts and articles on this subject. It seems to be quite a worrisome subject for parents. On the one hand, children need to learn how to use a computer. Computer skills are simply a necessity in modern life. Also, television and computers provide a vast and brilliant learning resource. On the other hand, children need physical activity and to learn face to face social skills. There needs to be a balance between the two.

With television, I will admit that I avoid certain programmes. Pokemon, which Pip became a little obsessed with, has been banned for the time being because it gave her a really warped idea about what evolution is and also because we started getting little tantrums if she was told that, for example, dinner was ready so she’d need to stop watching. At that point, I thought it best to impose an outright ban. I’ve also said no to a Barbie cartoon where a character tried to use a shrink ray to slim down and fit into a pretty dress. I’m not going to digress into a rant about why this filled me with palpable rage but needless to say, it shan’t be watched in our house ever again. There are some programmes I, and Pip, really like. Nina and the Neurons, a CBeebies science-based show, has been a favourite for quite some time, as has I Can Cook and Time for School, which was great for showing Pip what school would be like before she started herself. Recently, we’ve both been watching the Horrible Histories series. I loved the books as a child and find the TV series both informative and really funny. At first I thought Pip was just amused by the talking rat and frequent mentions of bodily functions but she has occasionally come out with facts learnt from it. As a family, we all love Doctor Who. At the moment there’s a new series on so we watch that once a week, plus  she might watch another episode at some point during the week. I usually watch each episode before she does. We’ve never prevented her from watching any episode but it’s good to be forewarned about any issues that might raise questions from her.

We do have an iPad that is pretty much exclusively used by Pip. I know what you’re thinking – We must have more money than sense. Just to make things clear, it’s a couple of years old and used to be Husband’s until he replaced it with an iPad Mini. There are games on it that aren’t really educational but there are also plenty that are (might well do a blog post about these in the future). I do limit the amount of time she spends on it and, when possible, I try to sit with her and at least talk to her about what she’s up to, if not play with her. I really do believe that it can be a highly useful piece of technology that is helping with her reading and number skills, fine motor skills and her knowledge about the wider world, including different cultures and wildlife.

Now before people start worrying that poor little Pip is locked in the house, surrounded by technology and experiencing nothing of life in the real world, let me set your minds at rest. We regularly visit parks, museums and places of historical and cultural interest. We play tabletop games as a family very often, sometimes spending whole days of a weekend doing so.

I really believe that we balance our lives well between technology and real life experience. Of course it’s something I consider and definitely something any parent should be thinking about but I don’t think it needs to be such a point of concern. By simply setting a few basic rules and limitations and maybe making a family commitment to time spent together and time spent outdoors, it might be a balancing act but it’s a simple one.

How does your child use technology? Do you set any limitations on time spent using devices?

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