Firstly I don't think it is right to demonise parents, or blame them, that our children spend more and more time in front of screens. Technological developments and society demand that we all spend far more time than we used to in fron of some kind of screen. Children have to be IT literate from a younger and younger age, and the reality TV culture in which we now live means that TV seems to be a major source of our day to day lives. In the past we would chat about what was happening in Neighbours, Home and Away and Eastenders, but now the focus has moved on to the X Factor and Towie (though have to say I have seen neither).
Most households have at least one PC or laptop, and we are told every day how much we need a smartphone or a tablet. I have been as Apple resistant as anyone and in my home there is now, for two adults and a toddler, one TV, a PC, a laptop, a kindle, two iPhones and an iPad. Yes, I am appalled at my lack of self control but did fight for non Apple smartphones and tablets. And you should see their happy little faces. Who do I mean? Well my husband and toddler of course.
My 18 month old daughter is fairly proficient in iPhone use. And whereas I was completely against the idea of her even looking at it at the beginning it has proven to be a great distraction tool. We're in a waiting room? She can use the Twinkle Twinkle Little Star app
Her iPhone use has its downsides. She does tend to randomly phone people, and finding her trying to video phone a contact when I was wandering round in nothing but a towel a few weeks ago was not one of my calmer moments. But generally when she grabs the phone she settles down to a video or two (current favourites include some Romanian kids' singing show that she randomly found) and then
As far as TV is concerned her presence is one of the reasons I had British TV installed here in France. I hate adverts for children, and cBeebies nicely avoids that. For the moment she shows zero interest in the TV. I'd actually like it if she showed a little more with her little sister on the way, but I'm sure there will come a point when I will eat those words.
As a parent I am aware of the potential harm of too much screen time. (Their eyes go square, right?) We are warned of language developmental delays, and impact on their ability to concentrate, and depression etc etc etc. I would never plonk my kids in front of the TV and leave them to it. The thought of my kids turning into zombies in front of a games console is depressing. But using scientific studies to link screen time to pretty much every evil you can think of isn't helping anyone either.
We live in a world where children will be exposed to flickering screens far more than we were as children. And no amount of warnings over that will change anything. Our lives revolve around screens now. It is our duty as parents to ensure that they do other stuff as well. Toys. Imaginative games. Real books. Outside play. I don't think that there are many parents who have children intending to leave them in front of a screen. We each do what we can. We find a happy medium. For some, this will be more screen time than others may find appropriate.
And this is like pretty much any other parenting decision we make. Other people will judge, some will always find a reason to criticise. I had free access to TV when I wanted it as a child, but never became addicted, choosing to live almost ten adult years without a TV at all. Others have restrictions on their screen time and it becomes a major temptation. There's no way of knowing if what you are doing as a parent is the right thing, and that is part of the uncertainty and fun of parenting.
So I am not going to stress about what reports say about kids and screentime. I'll aim for a happy child who has access to age appropriate media and as few adverts as possible. As in every other aspect of my parenting I will just do the best I feel I can, because that is quite honestly all one can do. There will always be someone who thinks what I am doing is wrong. I'll trust my own judgement, and try not to judge others in their decisions about TV and computer use. Because it isn't really much of my business, is it?