I try to limit my son's screen time, but kids these days think they should be entertained round the clock
Why bother going out when a far more exciting world awaits online?
I filmed a TV show with my 11-year-old son last week. It was a fun idea – they brought a lot of toys to the house for us to play with… the catch being that they were all toys from my youth. After an hour or so, I think Jackson started to feel a little sorry for me. Until this experience, he’d not really been aware of how dull my childhood was. One game in particular blew him away, and not in a good manner. A kind of cheap, plastic scaffolding was clamped on to an old flickering telly (no remote!) on top of which sat a red plastic sports car with a wire leading off it to a rudimentary steering wheel. The idea was that you inserted a VHS tape into the…
“What is that?” interrupted Jackson, and I felt very ancient.
The tape showed someone driving along the Pacific Highway and supposedly you drove the red car against him. It was terrible beyond belief. Jackson just kept staring at me: “This is honestly what you did?”
I mumbled something about how much I’d loved it, but I felt a tad depressed. I have to admit to remembering my youth as being a lot more exciting. There were video games like… Tank Wars… in which two blobs fired little blobs at each other until one was hit. I spent hours on it. It was the best thing I’d ever seen when I first played it in the bedroom of a family friend in the hills above Damascus.
Now, of course, Jackson can play games that allow him to be in live communication with players around the globe while they wander through perfect computerised simulations of Mars slaying uber-realistic monsters in Sensa-Surround or some such like.
In fact, real life must be a disappointment to my son. Why bother going out when a far more exciting world awaits on screen? Maybe I’m jealous or just trying to be what passes for a good dad but I do my best to curb his screen time. “Get outside. Go play football, or cricket or something,” I’ll shout.
“Will you play with me?” he’ll ask.
“I’m… busy… maybe later,” I say, pressing pause on Flog It.
I didn’t ask my parents to play with me. I’d wander around the garden on my own, building mantraps and talking to myself. Nowadays kids think they should be entertained full time. Needless to say, he didn’t go outside. Once again, when I popped upstairs in the break between Flog It and Four in a Bed, he was sitting on his own, staring at a screen. I lost it. “What is wrong with you? Can’t you do something that doesn’t involve a bloody screen?”
“I’M READING!” He screamed back.
“Sure you are,” I sniffed suspiciously. I grabbed his phone and checked the screen expecting to find him in mid-online bloodbath. Instead, I found … words. He was reading Percy Jackson and The Lightning Thief.
“Oh!” I said. “That’s good… well done… does that mean the Xbox is free then? I quite fancy a go at International Sniper Kill …”
They f*** you up, your mum and dad…