Sunday 19 November 2017

Gareth Morgan: 'Our son is two and already selfies are a speciality'

Children learn how to use iPads quickly. Picture posed. Thinkstock
Children learn how to use iPads quickly. Picture posed. Thinkstock
Gareth Morgan

Gareth Morgan

MY son's tearful and angry protestations when we moved to start limiting his online time were something of a shock.

After all, he is only two years old.

He can swipe, search and select with the best of them if you hand him a smartphone or tablet computer. Selfies are a speciality.

Like many toddlers, he has even tried to swipe the television screen or talk back to a newsreader, as if he were on a Skype call.

Although he was never specifically taught how to use these devices, he quickly learnt how to unlock and operate them simply by copying his parents. Our iPads and iPhones are rarely far from our sides these days.

There was little motivation required other than the fact that here was a colourful, vibrant and noisy digital world to discover. The only risk is that the virtual world becomes more engrossing that the real one.

Dylan is a rambunctious character who loves climbing, running and kicking a ball – even television is scant distraction. But give him a computer, and he will happily sit quietly – one of the few times he is quiet, apart from when he's asleep.

It is massively tempting to park our toddlers in front of these screens and leave them to their own devices while we enjoy a much needed rest.

But their attachment to apps, online games or YouTube videos seems to grow stronger with every online session.

And even websites aimed at children can feature reams of flashing adverts and pop-up messages, not all of which are suitable for young eyes.

That's when we decided not to hand Dylan the iPad every time he asked. There are sometimes tears, but he's two – and easily distracted with a favourite toy, football or other activity.

It is still worth allowing our children to explore the digital world – after all, it will play a massive part in their lives as they grow up. Tech skills are something that we need to nurture in this country.

As an adult, Dylan is more likely to be sending emails and making Skype calls than using snail mail or the landline.

And he has learnt useful skills from playing with apps – colour puzzles, jigsaws, sorting shapes and even writing numbers.

But I am acutely aware that nothing beats the feel of a paintbrush, a crayon, or a chunk of chalk in his hand. He still needs to flip the pages of a storybook, stack up building blocks and knock them down.

And he needs to know that the internet isn't always there when you want it.

Although as he grows up, he will increasingly learn that – for better or for worse – it is.

Irish Independent

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