- Gareth Ellis
The Trials of Technology
When I was a kid my TV had four channels – five by the time I was 10 years old.
By the age of four I had no idea how to turn the telly on, let alone navigate to what I wanted to watch. So, it still blows my mind that Rupert has now pretty much learned how to do exactly that – using loads more apps than were even in existence when I was younger.
Let me first clear something up, Jess and I try our hardest to limit the amount of screentime both of our children have. When they were babies we often limited it to an hour a day, because sometimes you just need an hour where they’re watching colourful shapes bounce around as opposed to lying on you.
As they’ve got older though the sophistication in what they want to watch has increased. For example, when Rupert was little we could put something on and he would watch it happily without any interruption. Then as he (and Emi) both got older they started to like different characters, with Rupert switching from Hey Duggee!, to Shaun the Sheep, to Go Jetters, to Spidey and now recently moving on to PJ Masks. For the record, Emi has pretty much stayed loyal to Waffle the Wonder Dog.
Whereas the change in characters they love hasn’t surprised me, the way they navigate there has changed incredibly, and really quickly as well.
It seemed like yesterday that I would have to stand next to the screen and point to something that Rupert wanted before getting his approval (usually rejection.) Now, he can reach up to get the remote himself (which still makes me sad that he’s growing too quickly) and navigate to Disney +/Netflix/BBC iPlayer before navigating through the various episodes and choosing what he wants.
Now, when he’s allowed to watch TV ,we don’t have to supervise him, we know he will confidently navigate to the things he likes and sit there happily until we say it has to go off.
Jess and I are in two minds over technology. We don’t want the children to be too overly exposed to it, but we accept that a knowledge of it is going to be useful in the future.
That’s why we bought them an Amazon Fire Kids tablet and headphones each for Christmas. They were already fairly competent at being able to find the CBeebies App on our phones, so it seemed the next logical step.
However, the great thing about a tablet is the amount of control we as parents have over the content they ingest. For example, we downloaded a load of educational apps and games as well as a lot of other things that we knew they’d like. On top of that we can limit the time they spend on them, before they automatically shut down (the tablets not the kids)
We can also set them so they have to complete a certain amount of time on an educational app before the others then all open up. It’s mind-blowing how much you can help shape what they watch if you really want to.
In the future things will become far more digitised and I know the kids will overtake us in their knowledge of social media. Then I’ll be the one saying ‘oh, I don’t do anything on that Face-ache, Insta-ma-jig.’ And they’ll be rolling their eyes behind me.