Don’t feel guilty. Give them the iPad. Picture: Jason Edwards
Don’t feel guilty. Give them the iPad. Picture: Jason Edwards

Why I give my kids loads of screen time

OPINION

I GIVE my two young daughters loads of screen-time. iPads, tablets, phones, TVs, Playstations, laptops, smartwatches and elevator floor readouts.

The result? A couple of gibbering, scrambled, psychopathic mini-banshees who can whip anyone at MarioKart.

Okay fine, that's not strictly true. I'm the best at MarioKart and they're only mildly psychotic, usually after I've just given them their breakfast of 10 Mars bars dissolved in Coca-Cola. Regardless, just saying, my two-year-old can recognise numbers on the elevator (and say them and push the buttons accordingly) up to number 20. Take that, tech vegans and Amish folk!

Yes, yes I know there's a lot of information out there about screen time being terrible for really young children. It affects brain development and could even be linked to dopamine addiction and a version of the immediate gratification and response cycle seen in drug and alcohol addicts. Which has led to a portion of my friends banning ALL screens from their young children.

I'm clearly no scientist. Honestly, I'm barely a functioning adult. However, in my extensive yet debatable wisdom I believe this to be a mistake. Don't get me wrong, I think the sentiment is admirable and OBVIOUSLY, tiny humans need outdoors, screen-free play and human interaction. But - barring certain members of our global governance sending us back to the stone age with their flirty little dick-swinging antics - we are only going to become a more digital and tech-integrated society. And so completely depriving our kids of an intuitive grounding in tech-fluency is going to limit their development. Trust me, no-one loves a Luddite. Except other Luddites.

Giving your kids screens won’t break them — it’s equipping them for the digital world they’re growing up in.
Giving your kids screens won’t break them — it’s equipping them for the digital world they’re growing up in.

Am I a snob? I think I might be a big fat tech snob. But hear me out because your kids NEED screen time.

They need to understand how touch screens work, how desktops are laid out, how games, dual-controllers, coverflow systems and personalised algorithms work. They need to get pop culture, global slang, chat rooms, chatbots, spambots and phishing, VR, AR, AI, UIs, Trojans, worms and a mouse.

Because every single industry in our world is currently going through or has been through a shuddering, sometimes violent, but always inevitable, metamorphosis into a post-digital industry. We are at the edge of the Artificial Intelligence revolution baby, and when our robot overlords come, your kids will either speak their language or become their batteries.

Perhaps I'm being a tad dramatic. I find a good benchmark is to make sure your children aren't binary-speaking hunchback cyborgs by the time they're three years old. Keep to that and I reckon you're golden. And this need for tech fluency doesn't just extend to your darling progeny. YOU need more screen time. And I'm not talking about stupid sodding Facebook or the toxic eater-of-souls, Instagram. If you're reading this and you've got teens, tweens, pre-teens or inpretweens, what's one of the biggest worries you have as a parent? Correctamundo. What they're doing on the interweb.

Glenn’s convinced it’s important to not only give kids screen time, but we should be more involved too, if only to learn what they’re all talking about. Picture: Mark Stewart
Glenn’s convinced it’s important to not only give kids screen time, but we should be more involved too, if only to learn what they’re all talking about. Picture: Mark Stewart

Here's a test: If you think 'memes' is pronounced, "me-me's", you have a mountain to climb, dear Luddite, and there lies a gulf between you and your child's online antics. You see, it's vital to surf the ever shifting sands of the digital realm and become somewhat knowledgeable in not only the tech but the fads, the trends, the transient bubbles of cool. Where your kids hang out. And a lot of the time it ain't social media as you know it. Its closed loop encrypted messaging apps and obscure forums and aggregators you've never heard of.

Plus, it's not just about knowing where they are but understanding ze lingo.

Not so you can join said sites with the aim of pretending to be a kid - you'll stick out like a sore, grown-up thumb - but so you can relate better and craft a better understanding with the loud little aliens in your house, instead of being the bumbling adult in the tie-dye T-shirt and backwards baseball cap spouting: "What's up, fellow kids? I'm home with the downies."

Or, failing that, just so you can eavesdrop and actually understand their jargon, allowing you to bust them before they go and rip twenty bongs in your brand new car and leave it smelling like the inside of a hipster's gusset.

So, I give my kids loads of screen time. Because screens aren't the enemy and tech isn't the enemy. It's actually social media that's the enemy. But that's a whole different kettle of phish.


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