Interesting report in the news last week was that by the time children had hit the age of seven they had spent a year of their life watching a screen. And it got me thinking as to how much we do every day that involves a screen and surely such statistics will only grow?
I was probably the last generation to grow up without the Internet and it only started to influence my life when I was 14. That meant until then I was a TV addict with only four TV channels to choose from. Films came in VHS from the video store and computer gaming was either via a first generation Game Boy or Nintendo 8-bit. Now I make it sound like I spent my whole time in front of the TV but actually I think I had a very balanced upbringing and while I watched an awful lot more than my girlfriend did when she grew up, I used to really enjoy being outside building camps or causing mischief.
However I also remember times of boredom when my friends were away or when there was nothing on TV. So this created opportunities to play and use my imagination. How much boredom kids are subjected to nowadays seems to differ depending on parenting styles but there doesn’t seem to be an awful lot, and I think that is a shame. While there can be huge benefits educationally with the information we have at our fingertips, I can’t believe the adults of tomorrow will thank us that they didn’t spend their childhood using their imagination and learning to deal with silence or boredom as we try to stimulate every second.
The problem with a screen is that it if infinitely variable in the colours and sounds it produces and it is no wonder that recent research has put certain devices such as a smart phone as being more addictive than crack cocaine. And this is the device we choose to give to our child to keep them occupied? For me not being a parent it is easy to look over the fence and have a view, and I am sure I will be the first to reach for the iPad to give to the nipper when I am lacking sleep and need some quiet time.
So is 1/7 of a child’s life watching a screen a good or a bad thing? Well I assume time will tell. Already I am seeing new recruits hitting our business who have been protected from failure, a phenomenon introduced in the last decade, so struggle to deal with the real world. Will the increased screen time produce a generation of geniuses – or distracted, unimaginative individuals?