Frolicking about, Banana mashing, and more. In this episode, Andy, Robin and Adam chat about young children and their use of screens. Are phones acceptable at the table? How do we cope with technology’s dominance? Plus, Adam speaks on the importance of playing with and being around real people.
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Hi, I'm Andy Psarianos.
Hi, I'm Robin Potter.
Hi, I'm Adam Gifford.
This is the School of School podcast.
Welcome to the School of School podcast.
Hello, and welcome to another episode of The School of School podcast. It's a special day because we've got Andy and Robin all to myself. How are you both?
Hey, we're doing all right. Well, I'm doing all right.
Well, I'm good. Yeah. Thank you.
Well, that's good news. That's good news today. Do you know what I'd like to talk about today? I'd like to ask a question that comes up. I get this in conversations all the time. What age should children be not introduced because I think it's almost from birth, but the use of technology, and I guess what we mean by digital technology screens? I think that's what the conversation usually comes around to. How old and for how long, and what's the opinion on that with really young children? I'm guessing that you two, this has come up in conversation with you if you're talking with parents or people who know small children.
Well, yeah. It's come up in conversation lately with me because I have some cousins who are younger and they're having babies right now and talking about when to introduce videos and anything, iPad type of things, and they have toddlers. And I'm thinking back just from when my kids were that age, I didn't have to worry about any of that. I mean, we had maybe a Baby Einstein we'd put on for them at a certain point, but we did not have technology right there where we're handing a very small child, an iPad for them to start using.
And I don't think that's the case nowadays. And I was talking to some parents who said, yeah, we have to make a concerted effort not to fall into that. It's very easy for young kids to be using technology nowadays. So you go out for dinner and they hand the child the iPad, and it seems like maybe it's a little too young. I think at this stage, they're going to be introduced to technology early on anyway, so I think the longer you can leave for them to not have technology may be better. What do you think, Andy?
Yeah. Well, I'm just trying to remember when this actually started as a thing. And I suppose it was really with the television. Okay, at first TV was not all that interesting to kids because maybe there was an hour of programming a day or less, maybe just weekends or whatever, where we were dealing with where we had content suitable for children. But when cable TV came around, that's really when it started taking off and people would plunk. And then certainly by the time VHS cassettes and things like that, you'd sit your kid in front of a Disney movie or an episode of Barney, or whatever it was that was popular at the time. And that's kind of when it started.
And then it evolved to computers and iPads and phones and whatever. When you look back at your own childhood, and we're all not that different in age, we probably have this nostalgic idea of playing outside and having all this freedom and whatever. And when we look at childhood now, yeah, it's very much dominated by technology. There's all kinds of devices and things to keep children interested. So what's the question? Is it bad for them? I don't know that we really know. Do we know? Does anybody know that we know?
I assume it's particularly the basis for a lot of conversations is anecdotal. And I think the only thing that worries me, and I think this has to do with the pandemic as well, is what the long-term outcome will be and the long-term effect. But it comes back to your point, Andy, about not knowing about human interaction. And maybe when we were growing up, depending on your circumstances, depending if you had a more family living with you or you saw them very often, perhaps there is that sort of nostalgia that creeps into it that suggests that we were always frolicking in the woods and hanging out with cousins, and all that sort of stuff.
frolicking... good word
And maybe that just simply wasn't the case. You know what I mean, we might've been just sitting around doing stuff on our own or whatever that wasn't particularly beneficial.
And I think the flip side of it is that there might be things on phones, tablets that might be really beneficial for young kids, like fine motor skills and stuff. If you're touching things on the screen and that maybe there's a development area there that didn't exist in the same way when we were growing up, or perhaps when my kids were growing up, maybe they ... again, were they playing with Play-Doh and developing those skills for hours and hours a day? No. Were they intricately building blocks for hours and hours a day? Wow. I don't know, rose-tinted glasses might suggest a bit of that going on, but I don't know. I think when it replaces humans, and it's consciously replacing humans for the ease, and it's just that lack of complete human interaction, I think that's probably when, well, it might lead to more trouble.
I think you can manage it and say, okay, there's a time and place for this, and there's a time when it's not appropriate. It always breaks my heart when I go out and maybe I'm having dinner and I see a young couple, and they're both staring at their phones and they're not talking to each other at a restaurant. And it is quite common. And they're both there scrolling their either TikTok or whatever it is, or even texting somebody else, or maybe even messaging themselves, I don't know. But it just seems kind of sad. It's like, really, you might as well just stay at home, or you don't even need to live with this person. Why? But it just seems to be the way that the world interacts now.
So for me, I try to encourage my kids like, Hey, I know that your life seems to exist around Snapchat and Instagram or whatever they're using at the time. But when we're all sitting here as a family having dinner, I don't really want to see you on your phone for extended periods of time. I don't. And I mustn't do it either. And so there's an appropriate time and place for it. But yeah, the question is at what age is it okay? I don't know. And really small children on iPads, is it harmful? I think if they spend too much time on it's likely to be harmful. I think if it's a managed short time here and there, then that's probably okay, right?
Yeah. I even wonder about eyesight, for example. Will that be impacted more if you've got kids on screens, or is it just like you were watching TV from a very young age, which maybe some of us did, and it's the same impact? But I kind of wonder. Adam, you talked about fine motor skills and how that maybe could be helpful to the cons outweigh the pros. I mean, would it really be so bad if they didn't have a screen until they were at least, I don't know, five, maybe seven?
I think what it comes back to though, it is the point that Andy made. I think that it's about knowing and if it becomes something that I think the hard cycle to break, and I've seen lots of parents at school go through the say with the use of dummies. So dummies is comforter. It's easy and stuff, but then you reach a point where you cross some sort of threshold and then take the dummy out man, and the world falls apart. So the easy option is give back the dummy. But in schools, you can't have a dummy for too long.
Society doesn't let you walk around with a dummy. I wouldn't be taken seriously if I turned up to some training and had to drop the dummy. But I think that screens are a different proposition, and everyone's got one. And they're always around. I think that that's probably the part that needs to be most well managed because if a child, if that's like, oh, I need a break or something like that, we've all been there as parents, whether it's stick on the tele or do whatever, that's just the way it goes.
I think if that becomes, oh, this is easy all the time, then you're creating some problems that maybe tricky to grow back on.
So what drives parents to do it? I mean, ultimately, as a parent, there's just times where you just need a break, right? Because you're constantly on ... We've all had young children. We know sometimes it's so overwhelming. Your whole day is just completely driven by this small creature who demands everything from you. And you just say, I just need 20 minutes, I need half an hour, whatever it is. And that's just an easy option.
Now, so rewind 50 years ago, those options weren't there. So what did you do? You said, okay, kids, outside in the garden or wherever. You guys go out, I can see you through the window-
And I'll lock the door.
I'll lock the door. I don't hear from you for half an hour because I got to do whatever it is that I need to do. It wasn't really all that different was it? Was it different?
No, no, no. I think the difference is that I think say my parents' generation, you were allowed a healthy amount of ... and I'm using it's a very loaded word, but that sort of neglect, that sort of you go and fend for yourself. And there was no, oh, should I be doing this or should I be doing that? I think I would suggest that now parenting is under the microscope. Everyone's got an opinion as they had done previously. But now if you type in, how do I do this as a parent, you've got the internet that tells you in a million different ways, a million different ways. Remember my mom telling me some book by some Dr. Spock joker and that was the-
Yeah, I read that book.
For all parenting.
Yeah. But that was the go-to, right? You didn't have all of these other options that were telling you a million different ways you can mash a banana to get just the right nutrients... You hand your kid a banana, and that was it, and be done with it. So I think it's tough. It's tough. And trying to get that balance right and be super parent while everyone else has been the super parent doesn't exist, I'm sure of it. But yeah, I think that's the bit now is that you feel you've got to be doing something. There's a societal pressure to be doing something for your children all the time. And I'm not convinced that say my mum would've felt the same way.
No, no. Yeah, that's a really good point. That's a really good point. I think kids need to be able to fend for themselves to some extent. So what's probably shifted in society, I guess, and to a certain extent is that we're a little bit more reluctant now to let kids be hanging around outside on their own. I'm not sure the world is any more dangerous than it was when we were children, but I had lots of crazy-
We just know about the dangers more. I think-
We can read it on the internet.
It's all the Internet's fault.
It's all the Internet's fault.
That's a whole other podcast. But yes, I do wonder. Like you said, Adam, I think we don't know yet. And I think there's some obvious things that we could point out. We can make a list of why young children shouldn't have access to technology. We could make a list of a few positives as well, but the reality is we just won't know until this generation grows up and they tell their kids they had the most wonderful childhood because all they had access to was an iPad or a computer, and maybe their kids will be in doing virtual reality, everything, (who knows?) so every generation has its concerns. It's a hard one to answer. I don't know. We're not experts. We only have our opinions, but I see it's just the way of the world going, and that kids at a very young age now seem to have the ability to know how to operate a computer of some sort.
I think bottom line for me, and the last little bit for me is most things, it's about balance. I get sent these lovely videos of my nephew and his wife's weird girl, and I think I was just thinking about that and thinking, okay, so she's really weird, and my parents talk about her dotingly, and all that sort of stuff. And I was thinking, well, so what's the indicator? And I was thinking she still loves playing with people, and I've got no doubt that she will be sat in front of screens as well and playing on iPads and all that sort of stuff. But I think if I was to go back, if I was a parent of a young child now, I think that's what I'd be looking out for. Is there that balance? Does my child still playing with people or being around people? And if that balance is just too far to know never people, just the screen, then probably it's time to have a little wonder about whether or not that's still a beneficial thing.
Yeah, that's a good point. I suppose to sum it up, I guess what you're saying, Adam is like, yeah, it's okay, but not at the detriment of other things.
Of being human. Yeah,
Social, being human. Yeah.
Thank you for joining us on the School of School podcast.