There is a lot of research about babies and screens, toddlers and screens etc. Each year there seem to be more screens for everyone to watch. Doctors and others talk about very small children going up to pictures, screens and even books and wiping their fingers across the screen. And then looking surprised when nothing happened.
Research suggests that watching screens changes brain patterns – for good or ill – and that excessive watching can cause permanent damage. No real suggestion as what is Excessive [as in drink-driving where it seems that the number of units permitted was plucked from the air by someone with good intentions] but ‘too much’. As far as I know, this reflects a number of ideas but generally it is acknowledged that a little watching is OK – as in when Mummy needs to go to the toilet, or Daddy is desperate to see the Extra-time of a Cup Final. Sometimes.
The biggest problem with screens, as far as I can see, is that the more time anyone spends using a screen, the less time they have available for real-time social interaction. We have all now had experience of sitting next to a group of people who are all on phones or tablets doping something fascinating that they very occasionally share with one of the others. There are even adverts mocking this while pointing out that some Offers with some companies allow you to exploit this urge. One of the instructions given to older children filing into class at school is that they should put their phones away, and increasingly you see small children handing over their tablets as they go into the playground. One of the most terrifying adverts I saw recently was toys for Infants [literally pre-walking] which incorporated a place where the Carer could insert a Tablet to entertain the child while the parent did something else. And parents are very proud when their toddler can operate the thing!!!
It has all become more than notional for me just now as my first grandson lives abroad. I stayed with them for his first three months and miss him enormously. I am also reluctant to allow him to forget me: I don’t imagine that he will remember my face particularly, although I am more confident that he will know my sound and smell. I just hate the idea that he might forget the whole of me.
But there is Skype or FaceTime [or any of the others]. I can use a computer and we can have a face-to-face interaction. And it costs nothing. He doesn’t look at me for long, but it might be that he recognises me. He is not close enough to touch the screen. But I love that we can keep this going, that on one level at least, we are seeing and hearing each other. How do we keep this going and still keep him from realising all the other things that can be done? How can we restrict the time he is allowed on these machines? As he gets older, how do we keep up with all the devious ways kids have discovered to evade the restrictions their parents impose?
Technology is a very mixed blessing – it feels very like Pandora’s box, in that having allowed one little sprite out of the box for whatever sound reason, it has been accompanied by any number of others – not all good.