Kate de Bass
Screen Time and exercising parental control
Screen time and exercising parental control over my children’s relationship with technology has proved to be one of the biggest challenges I have faced as a parent, and was one of the key driving forces that encouraged me to start Pipity.
My husband is a big technology fan and a first adopter of many wizzy gizmos and i-gadgets, so the challenge is not insignificant in our house and opportunities to plug-in and play are plentiful. My kids have become very skilled negotiators, talking their way round our screen time rules… “it’s homework” (well it might be for the first 15 mins!).
Added to that I have never been busier, and ironically the demands of running Pipity mean that I have been letting my kids plug in for longer than I feel comfortable about, especially during the winter months. However, it's New Year resolution time and I’m keen to address the situation and get back to a happier healthier balance.
I know that I’m not alone, it’s a conversation that I regularly have with friends. And with a little digging into the research out there, our anxieties and instincts about screens aren’t unfounded, and highlight that this is going on in most homes. A survey of 1,000 Mums of children aged 2 - 12 found that 85% use technology to keep the kids occupied while they get on with other activities, with kids spending on average about 17 hours a week in front of a screen - almost double the amount of time spent playing outside (8.8 hours). Another study outlined how screen time creates significant changes in brain chemistry – most notably, in the release of dopamine. This neurotransmitter, also known as the pleasure chemical, is central to addictions from sugar to cocaine, and has led to researchers coining the phrases “digital heroin” and “screen junkies”. It’s worrying, especially when you witness it happening to your own children, I have seen how quickly the desire to plug into a game takes over a preference to do anything else.
Our experiences of being the first to raise a generation of children in this technology era is a daunting one. We’re in a new age of parenting. Never before have people held entire computers in the palm of their hand, and we’re still figuring out what to do with them and how often. The long term implications are unknown.
Technology is here to stay though and for all the scary information out there, there is a place in our family for screens. I can see the benefits and appreciate the ease we look up recipes to combine the ingredients remaining in the fridge, create spontaneous medleys of tunes to sing along to in the kitchen, get all the information needed about places we want to visit. My curious kids look things up to find the answer — in the 21st century that’s done online, not to mention communicating with friends and family.
After lots of lovely feedback from Pipity users, and after much deliberation I have included 'how to make' and 'how to play' YouTube videos with the latest Activity books. Appreciating that it's better to use technology to encourge and inspire kids to do activities that we want them to be doing, and that we know are good for their development. Many reports are stating that 'creative play' is what children need to be doing more of, and if we can use screens to encourge this, with fun video guides, this has to be beneficial to busy parents, whilst giving children the opportunity to develop fine motor skills, make some thing tangible, which inspires independent imaginative play!
Having looked into it, I'm excited to report that Pipity has the only activity books offering this, so would love to hear what you think.
Right now on with my New Year Resolution list..... Hhmmmm!