An iphone obsession and leading by example

30 Jun

Staying connected

Staying connected

The dulcet tones of Olly Murs on a relentless loop on Youtube is enough to test anyone’s sanity. I owe this particular pleasure to my two year old daughter’s new found IT skill – tapping the ‘mouse pad’ to affect a repeat play. It follows on from her ability to scroll down on my iphone to find certain apps, photos and videos.

The obsession with my iphone started at an early age and was duly rewarded with her own Fisher Price ‘mobile’ for her first birthday. She now has several toy phones and a ‘laptop’ (keyboard alphabet game). Still, the sheer joy of getting her grubby little hands on the real McCoy is undeniable. Thankfully a passcode prevents her doing too much damage if I take my eye off the ball.

So where’s all this going to lead? Reports that children are unable to communicate effectively or feel comfortable in social situations because they are spending too much time online and not enough in the ‘real’ world fills me with horror. Then there’s the issue of child safety, grooming and bullying. And one poor mother recently had to fork out £1,700 to pay for her five year old’s spending spree on her Ipad.

Of course, there are steps parents can take to alleviate these risks, such as limiting time spent on technology, supervising activity and using filtering and monitoring software. And the recent pledge by internet service providers, social media companies and search engines to clamp down on child pornography has to be a good move; although I’m not sure how far their paltry £1 million will go towards this effort, and whether ‘user alerts’ threatening legal intervention will simply drive the distribution of content underground. Anyway, I digress.

As my little one grows up, I would hope to be able to encourage her to socialise with her friends in person as much as online, and ‘screen’ time will certainly be limited. But as someone who checks her email, Facebook and Twitter accounts at least twice a day and goes into a state of panic if the WiFi goes down, leading by example will be tough! In my defence, this reliance on online communications is largely work-related, and I don’t feel the need to provide daily status updates. This perceived need to have a constant online presence in order to maintain credibility with one’s peers is something I particularly fear for my daughter.

On the other hand, I fully advocate the benefits of the internet and social media for learning, entertainment, sharing ideas and keeping in touch with family and friends who are geographically out of reach. Indeed, the skills and knowledge to utilise these technologies effectively should be supported – poor IT skills are surely a disadvantage in the modern world. So, rather than be too heavy-handed about surfing the web for fear of any potential harm, I hope in future we can discuss what she’s using the internet for and how to enter the digital world safely; just as we will discuss the dangers of coming home late and the dreaded ‘birds and the bees’, at the right time.

Putting Olly Murs and my headache aside… children are lucky to have so many resources available to them through the internet, but just as we had a fear of ‘stranger danger’ drilled into us, today’s kids need to be taught a healthy disrespect of enticing online introductions. They also need to understand the importance of conducting themselves properly to protect their own reputation, and know the potential for hurt by carelessly criticising others. Most importantly, they should know when its time to log off and not fear any repercussions. Only time will tell how successful I am in promoting this attitude.

Related links:

Susan Greenfield and the rise of the Facebook zombies

Limit children’s screen time, expert urges

Kids spend too much time screen focused

UK internet providers commit £1m to eradicate child porn


2 Responses to “An iphone obsession and leading by example”

  1. Rachel July 1, 2013 at 11:42 am #

    I think I have been underestimating my own children’s capabilities. If my two children aged 5 and 7 can work their way round google, youtube, the tablet and our tv system where you need 3 remote controls, surely they can start making their own pack lunchs and tie their own shoe laces. It appears not! Well that is about to change.

    My kids get 1 hr a day of either TV or the computer time. The computer usually wins, which I find quite interesting. It is interactive and gives them choice. They have developed their own specific interests which they investigate further on-line. They also have about one hour of reading (or being read to) to balance this out.

    I think pile on as many skills as possible. I meet so many young adults who can’t sew, cook or work a washing machine and older people who still can’t use a microwave or send an email. Use it or lose it.

    Like you, my biggest concern is bad exposure online. But hopefully with good manners and common sense learnt from a wide range of experiences “off line”, this will continue “on-line”.

    Finally to all you internet alter-egos out there, please go get a real life, you really don’t have to document everything. Just because you don’t have a picture for something, it did happen, you can use the memories in your brain?….I know, I know its fun….
    Oh and by the way, just heard the PTA are fundraising for class room I-pads and tablets?!?! We are not going to win this one, the machines have arrived, they live amongst us, you have welcomed them into your home, we will have to face the consequences, know your enemy and keep him close. I am going to log off and do some work now.

    I really am going to do some work…….I just need to switch this thing offf….

    switch off, now, off now, it’s so hard

    • Kate Mensah July 1, 2013 at 1:16 pm #

      Thanks for your thoughts Rachel. Very interesting that you also believe that IT skills are vital for children and that manners and skills learnt offline should translate to online behaviour. Your kiddies sound very switched on and I’m sure will use computers safely and to their best advantage under your guidance. The problem will be keeping up with our offspring as the technology evolves.

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