Tag Archives: Children

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

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Bringing library closures to book

25 Apr

reading

My heart sank this week to learn of the demise of the local library – with more than 200 libraries up and down the country closed last year due to Councils’ spending cuts, 170 so called community-run libraries being kept afloat thanks to unpaid volunteers, and hundreds more facing closure.

Since arriving in Brittany a couple of weeks ago, myself and the little one have already acquainted ourselves with the excellent local library here (albeit for a nominal fee). Reading the likes of Le Petit Chaperon Rouge (Little Red Riding Hood) and Le Lapin (The Rabbit) are not only quenching my daughter’s thirst for a story, but improving both our French.

Our regular library visits (which date back to her very first months) by no means precludes a burgeoning book collection of her own, but the benefits of learning about borrowing books from a library extends beyond the cost savings. Flicking erratically through the array of titles (invariably starring an animal as the main protagonist), and sitting on her own to ‘read’, while I peruse loftier titles (ahem), is particularly rewarding for mademoiselle. Even returning the books is teaching her a valuable lesson about looking after borrowed items and sharing with other children. Not forgetting the social aspect of meeting and greeting other library users and staff.

My personal passion for libraries is relatively recent, admittedly. This is perhaps, in part, due to the fact that as a child books were readily available in our house, and in my teenage years, my passion for reading was fuelled by my grandmother – a voracious reader, with whom I could freely discuss not only books, but music, fashion and my latest crush.

As an English Literature undergraduate in the early ‘90s I developed a love/hate relationship with my university library – not unlike the haunted library in Ghostbusters, mysteriously catalogued and with an eerie quietness which made me want to blurt out some profanity, Tourette’s style, to break the uncomfortable silence. Where the student grant allowed, novels, plays and poetry would be purchased, untouched by human hand, from Blackwell’s and devoured back at my digs. Countless afternoons spent curled up on my ramshackle sofa, never far from a boiling kettle and the biscuit tin; far more conducive to literary digestion than sitting straight-backed and silent at a rigid desk.

Aside from a brief encounter with an academic library in the name of professional development, I pretty much managed to put the sweaty-palmed experience of libraries behind me until 2010. I didn’t give up reading– I just preferred to pick up books on Amazon, or on a whim in the airport WH Smiths.

The combination of tightened purse strings and an expanding belly forced me to venture tentatively into the local library to swot up on baby-rearing techniques. Of course I consulted the internet too, but physical books by recognised authors, with their forewords and friendly pictures, seemed to provide greater comfort and reassurance in light of the challenges ahead. Greeted by a cheery face and intuitively displayed books, I could easily find everything from romantic fiction, to travel books and indeed, baby manuals – with comfortable seating to boot! (In actual fact, mother’s instinct was never far wrong, but Tracy Hogg’s Secrets of the Baby Whisperer provided a good foundation).

Later, with a pram in tow, the local library had even greater appeal, – with nursery rhyme CDs, ‘bounce and rhyme’ classes and information about local playgroups and activities.

Library visits and our nightly reading sessions continue to be met with gusto by my daughter and I am relieved that I overcame my library phobia in good time for her to enjoy this particular habit.

I also count my own blessings for having been given an early introduction to reading and books and strongly support efforts to protect our local libraries, which are such an important gateway to reading and ergo, life chances, for many young people who may not be able to access books so readily at home.

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