We find a tablet P.C. an invaluable part of our holiday kit. We love them because you can download so many different things onto one, easily portable, device: games, favourite T.V. programmes and films, books, and educational apps that support numeracy, literacy, and communication skills.
I don’t feel bad about using screen time to keep Freddie busy at home, either.
I know, I know – there are people who believe that young children should not have any screen time at all. While I wouldn’t want Freddie to be glued to a computer, a tablet, the television, or any other electronic device all day, every day, I don’t think that ‘rationed’ use of them will do him any harm. In some ways, I think it can even be beneficial, used in moderation.
And moderation is always possible. I am not afraid to use the word ‘no’. I am the adult, I am the one in charge; I decide when he has the tablet or T.V. and for how long. I set a timer if necessary, and when the time is up, the device goes off, no matter how much he protests.
Very often, when the alarm rings, he switches it off himself after a bit of gentle reminding.
I have the same attitude to biscuits.
We have found some novel ways to exploit screens to support his learning.
Freddie loves animals. We have taken to recording family-friendly wildlife programmes (pre-watershed), which he really enjoys watching. He has a tendency to repeat words and phrases that he hears on the television. When he does this, we pick up on the words and talk about them, and try to add some context, so that what starts as merely echoing leads, in time (hopefully), to understanding.
Another thing we have noticed, and this is one in the eye for those who say that all screen time is detrimental to children, is that Freddie responds much better to a book once he has seen an audio-visual version of it, such as the BBC adaptations of popular Julia Donaldson stories.
Viewing these on screen has encouraged him to engage more actively with the printed books. He now reads them more or less independently.
Freddie still gains just as much pleasure from traditional toys and activities as I did, growing up in the days before personal computers and mobile phones were available (‘Pong’ was as near as I got to a video game).
When we fly I also take along non-screen-based distractions, such as paper and coloured pencils.
One thing that went down particularly well was a new book, presented as a ‘surprise’ once we were seated on the plane. I can see this becoming a tradition, and who knows, perhaps giving books as exciting presents will help keep alive, by association, his love for real ‘paper’ books that can be handled, smelled and cherished.