The MOMO hoax has been much in the news recently but, now that the moral panic has subsided, common sense is back.
We live in a complicated technological world. Technology was supposed to free us but I think it constrains us more than ever. Parenthood is tricky as we try to negotiate the need for developing a confident handling of technology with social responsibility, and the need for kids to be kids.
Screen time is not something I actively monitor. The time itself is limited only by the battery of the device! Matthew and Anya go on their Kindles early in the morning so that I can get some rest after yet another sleep deprived night with Zach.
But screen time also focuses on the content. I do not exercise control over this with my children. There have been times that the odd swear word pops up on YouTube videos but the children don’t understand them and tend not to notice them. In fact, it has been us drawing attention to the words that puts the swearing on their radar.
I trust my children to be responsible with what they watch and if they think something is unsuitable then they will stop watching. We do have some parental controls in place (especially after Zach managed to download an expensive app!) but mostly they are independent.
Screen time can be hugely beneficial to the children. They are experts on building in Minecraft due to videos they have watched for inspiration and help. It has fed their love of knowledge (particularly Matthew and his obsession with dinosaurs and the evolution of our planet).
The kids also enjoy the social aspects of games, whether that is being competitive on the Wii or demonstrating their expertise on their Kindles.
Zach is something of a genius. He is almost 3 but can write the alphabet, knows his phonic sounds, can count to 100 and beyond. As I sit here typing at 6pm on a Sunday night, he is watching videos in French to learn vocabulary. This is all generated by him and I have not pushed him at all!
If screen time was the only thing that the children were interested in, then I would be concerned. But they want to play outside and use sticks as swords or wands. They want to read and make things creatively including cooking, crafts and music. They enjoy spend time with friends, family and each other.
Matthew has already asked me for a mobile phone because he wants to play games. I think I will give him a phone when he begins to go to places on his own and certainly when he goes to secondary school. I am fully aware that our relationship with screen time will change significantly when social media enters the equation.
Do you limit screen time? Do you worry about your children being online too much?