Most of us attending a doctor’s health screening brace ourselves for the inevitable question, ‘And how many units of alcohol do you consume in a week?’ Invariably, we pick a number we think sounds acceptable to our GP, and his or her knowing look tells us that we’ve been rumbled and they know we’re lying. We draw some comfort from the knowledge that it’s always possible to cut down or give up. Maybe not today, but definitely at some point in the future.
There’s another screening in an area of unhealthy over-consumption in our lives where we really do feel powerless to change. And it’s affecting our children. I’m talking about screens – screens of the digital variety – the portals to just about every aspect of our lives. For most of us, screens and our reliance on the technology that sits behind them are impossible habits to break.
The figures for adult screen gazing are shocking. In the UK, 70 per cent of adults own smart phones, on average, checking them more than 100 times daily. We look at screens day and night – we check our phones, tablets, PCs, laptops, iPods, iPads for news, messages, weather, data, entertainment, purchases, opinions, pictures… We’re constantly updating ourselves on whatever the situation is, or updating others on our current status. FOMO kicks in from the minute we wake up and reach for our smart phone – ‘Quick, what did I miss when I was asleep?’ right up to when we go to bed. In the small hours, the insomniacs are back online. That’s why the email waiting in your already cluttered inbox (4000+ unread) from the chair of the PTA was sent at 03:10 hours.
And it’s the same for many children. When kids have friends round, the first enquiries from young guests are invariably, ‘Where can I charge my …?’ and ‘What’s your Wi-Fi password?’ Whilst inwardly disapproving, many parents are relieved at the pacifying effect of screens on their children, freeing up some time for chores, work, getting the dinner ready or even a spot of online shopping.
Every day, we’re swiping, tapping, pushing, poking, sharing, liking, connecting, downloading, playing and paying on screens. We carry entertainment with us in the form of movies, thousands of photos, music tracks, games, friends and clips of cats doing silly things. We gaze at screens to help us do our jobs, and screen-based resources like digital whiteboards and iPads help our children to learn at school.
At home, we derive entertainment from our devices, or perhaps upgrade to a larger screen in the form of a TV, to stream last week’s missed episode of Bake Off on the iPlayer. Other members of the family can watch what they want at a screen, time and in a room of their choosing. The downside to this as a parent (apart from the broadband and viewing bundle prices) is the an uncomfortable feeling of loss of control when we admit that (due to locked screens) we haven’t got a clue what our kids are looking at.
As adults, we can handle this screen-gazing dependence, if we ignore the insomnia, carpal tunnel, neck strain, back problems and encroaching obesity which are occupational hazards of this screen-gazing life. Deep down, we know that we are happier on many different levels if we are engaging with real people in a real environment or looking at a real view. But what about the children?
Whilst we can put various rules in place at home, we can’t remove children from the digital environment entirely– nor would we want to. It’s how we all live now. I think most parents concerned about digital overload at home would agree that the family needs to get out more. Out there, away from cyberspace, in the real world away, from screens. Not occasionally, but more. But how?
That’s where digital signpost, GoMunkee can help. Yes, it is screen-based technology, but parents and adults with responsibility for children can discover a wonderful choice of things to see and do with their kids, many of them free, wherever they happen to be. Sign up now, and liberate your children from the shackles of screens. Go on. Get out more.
© Annie Harrison, GoMunkee 2017