“Put down that blasted smartphone/tablet/whatever and PUT YOUR SHOES ON!!!!!” It’s a familiar scene played out in countless houses up and down the country.
The fact is children and technology are a match made in heaven, or hell, depending on which screen-time camp you fall into. Because no parenting topic is thornier than that of how much time our little ones should spend glued to little blue screens.
But with recent research by Ofcom revealing that three quarters of five to 15-year-olds own a tablet, as well as over half of three to four-year-olds it’s a topic that’s pretty relevant for modern families.
One mum who definitely knows where she stands on the whole to ban or not to ban discussion is Karly Tophill. After noticing her 13-year-old son, Dylan, was spending more and more time on his smartphone she decided to impose a dramatic year-long ban and within six weeks she’d noticed a dramatic improvement in the teenager’s behaviour.
“Dylan was spending a lot of time on his phone and I wasn’t comfortable with that,” the mum-of-two told SWNS.
“He was using it too much. He’d be coming home from school and using it to play games for about two hours in the evening, and in the morning.”
But within six weeks of taking away his iPhone, Karly said she’d noticed her son seemed happier, more energetic, doing better with his homework and even offering to help with household chores.
Now the 41-year-old wants to encourage other parents to try out a phone or tablet-free day a week to see if they notice similar benefits in their own children.
Karly certainly isn’t the only parent to have raised concerns about the effect increased use of mobile phones and tablets could be having on children’s behaviour. A recent survey by insurance firm Row.co.uk revealed that over a third of parents believe a reliance on gadgets was making their children unsociable.
And it doesn’t stop there. It was also discovered that more than half of parents think technology has had a negative effect on their child’s willingness to participate in physical activity. A third of parents also found their child to be more argumentative, had a lower attention span and received a lesser quality of sleep since the introduction of gadgets.
The same survey also revealed that almost a third of parents believe their child spends too much time using their devices, while 17 per cent regret giving their children a mobile phone or tablet.
So could Karly’s tech-free suggestion be the way forward? Will our children’s behaviour be transformed the minute we lock away the gadgets?
Some scientific evidence certainly seems to suggest so. The Royal Society of Medicine recently warned that some youngsters’ use of technology was harming their psychological health and having a negative impact on their school performance. While a study in South Korea found 25 per cent of children were considered to be addicted to their smartphones.
But is there an argument that in doing a blanket ban on tech we could be overlooking some potential benefits to our children’s development?
A recent study from the University of Iowa revealed that playing a brain-teasing game for just two hours a week may help slow the degree of mental decay associated with the natural ageing process. And researchers at Queen Mary University of London and University College London found that certain video games can increase a player’s ‘brain flexibility’ which the scientists described as “a cornerstone of human intelligence.”
Then there’s the argument that technology in itself can be educational. Not only does a knowledge of how to use various gadgets fire up children’s technological skills, but it can also help encourage problem solving, research skills, fuel their creativity.
Plus could banning kids from screen-time actually be squashing their interest in the overall medium. There are children out there who are naturals when it comes to technology. Future coders, designers, engineers. By denying them access to that will we be limiting or even inhibiting their future opportunities?
Perhaps the solution, like in so many parenting debates, lies in striking a balance. If your child is spending more and more time staring at a screen, a tech-free day (or more) a week could be a great compromise. And perhaps instead of letting our little ones have free-reign over their tech-viewing, we should sit down and talk about it with them. Ask them what they find particularly ‘fun’ about watching a video of a four-year-old opening his Kinder Eggs, discuss why they enjoy certain games, programmes, videos. And encourage a balance between tech-time and tech-time out.
The fact is technology plays a huge role in our everyday lives, so we should probably try to find a way of working with it, rather than fighting against it.
What do you think? Should we be imposing tech-bans on our children? Let us know @YahooStyleUK