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The Perfect Family Part X

Finally, here we are at part 10 of the Perfect Family blog. Here, we discuss issues revolving around family and the everyday realities they bring. Among those realities are a depressingly short supply of personal time in which to write blogs and edit photographs! My my my, I gawk at the amount of time the little ones require from us feeble big people, but I suppose you can argue that it's worth the time investment... when they grow up and become hormonal, crater-faced teenagers. Hmmm....

This week, I'd like to discuss kids and technology. Prior to becoming a proud first-time parent, I read many books in preparation for my new role in life. As someone who has always been interested in the sciences, I searched for, and found, a truly fascinating book revolving around the neuroscience behind babies, toddlers and children and the stages they pass through on the way to becoming fully-developed adults. What a great read it was. I would strongly recommend the book for any parent, particularly those of us who geek out at the sound of the words "neuron" and "synapse". I did notice though that among the fascinating information and golden nuggets of advice for raising happy and stimulated children was a piece of information which flummoxed me.

Tablets & phones... they apparently retract from a young child's understanding of the physical world surrounding them. Avoid exposing young children to technology such as tablets and smartphones, it said, as the result of touching the screen is not directly attributable to the act of having touched it. As an example, if you take a stick and hit it against your father's head, it will make a sound. A dull sound which hints at the echoing chamber of emptiness below the scalp which is now swelling up like an ant mound. However touching a screen can cause a spiralling shower of colours and shapes which children cannot connect to the physical world. All of this makes sense. "OK", I thought, I'll give screen-free childhood a try.

It quickly became apparent however that I AM one of the gawking buffoons which the book clearly implies will be created when exposed to large doses of screen time.
   Exhibit A) I watch TV. Football, documentaries, Game of Thrones, gangster stuff with lots of shooting and Agatha Christie crime dramas (courtesy of wifey).
   Exhibit B) I use my phone. Facebook, Instagram, sports news, world news, photojournals, games, jumping games, driving games, games where you make YOUR OWN BLOODY GAMES! 
   Exhibit C) My brain is mush. When I walk outside in the real world, I see Pokemon instead of real people. My local bakery is run by an enormous yellow bear-thing which uses hypnosis to trick me into buying too many cinnamon buns. Then the weird fish-like creature that lays on its side constantly tempts and succeeds in making me eat half the buns before I get home to my family (who are famished because I've spent my monthly earnings on pokecoins so I can top up on my diminishing supply of pokeballs and potions).

Oh dear, I never really stood a chance of keeping screens away from my kids. Yes, they watch TV. They also occasionally play on my phone (which I'm surprised to say has miraculously survived the many spills and tumbles). We have however made the whole system work productively, with great thanks to some wonderful online resources made for parents and a whole host of apps which have capitalised on the potential of modern technology to encourage children to speak and learn to read. http://www.bestappsforkids.com/ is an example of such a resource which has meant that the guilt I had once begun to feel has long ago dissipated and I have embraced the technology as a small part of a wider experience for my kids. To attempt to ignore the technology was never really a possibility for me, nor do I think it is something which will do the remotest bit of harm to my little ones. There are doubtlessly plenty of families who will make do with row upon row of books, enriching trips to the local art gallery and a systematic approach to involving their children into cooking mealtimes and scrubbing the floors while their parents lounge in leisure in a hammock home-woven by their nobel-prize winning 3 and a half year old. That however, is not my perfect family.

Jose Francos-RodriguezComment