Wednesday 20 February 2019

How Kirstie smashed up her kids' iPads only for cracks to show in her online life

Kirstie Allsopp confessed to destroying her sons' devices and found herself the target of internet ire, writes Sarah Caden

LEFT TO THEIR OWN DEVICES: Kirstie Allsopp took drastic action when her children spent too long online — only to face criticism herself. Stock picture
LEFT TO THEIR OWN DEVICES: Kirstie Allsopp took drastic action when her children spent too long online — only to face criticism herself. Stock picture

Sarah Caden

It was June when Kirstie Allsopp smashed her two sons' iPads. The TV presenter and property expert didn't speak about this publicly until last Monday, when she went on Channel 5's Jeremy Vine show to talk about parents' responsibility for their children's behaviour.

By Wednesday, she may have wished she'd kept her mouth shut. The trajectory of her journey to admission of iPad destruction to her quitting of Twitter in the face of the inevitable backlash took less than two days. It became something of a parable of the modern age.

Kirstie presented a hard line on her children's online lives; then the internet lashed out at Kirstie, on fronts she might never have dreamt of; then Kirstie had to take a hard line on her own online life.

And all in the space of 48 hours.

There was a lesson for Allsopp's kids in the action that sparked the furore, but maybe there's something for all parents in the ultimate consequence for Allsopp.

As adults, we're all incredibly practised in griping about how our kids have their heads stuck in the devices that we've given to them, but we have a blind spot when it comes to our own behaviour.

It's now a given that most people now deal with work emails during home hours. We think nothing of answering emails in the evening or taking work calls. Most of us are on social media in some shape or form. Plenty of us play online games.

There are phones beside our beds and under our pillows. More of us than care to admit it have pains in our necks from looking at down at our various screens.

Whether we like it or not, almost all of us are guilty of telling our kids to wait a minute while we text/email/post our latest pic of them on social media.

This is not a lesson to our children in having patience and taking their turn, this is a lesson in how nothing is as important as what happens on our devices.

Kirstie Allsopp went on TV last Monday to talk about parenting responsibly, teaching her kids to be sensible and sane online and ultimately, had to take herself in hand. And, though the process might have hurt, perhaps she's better off for it.

According to Allsopp last week, June's iPad destruction occurred when her two sons, Oscar (11) and Bay (9), had breached the family's screen-time rules one time too many.

She cited the much talked-about Fortnite as one of the games that they continued to play beyond their time limits despite several warnings, and so she took matters into her hands. Literally. She took the iPads and, as she demonstrated, she smashed them against a table leg.

Allsopp told the story in a matter-of-fact way, not necessarily proud of herself but tested to the limit and not unwilling to take drastic measures.

Her fellow panellist suggested that it was useless to smash the iPads when the boys undoubtedly had other devices on which to get stuck in and Allsopp, maybe a little smugly, that her boys don't have smartphones.

You have to wonder if Kirstie Allsopp, on making last Monday's admission of destruction, hoped for public support and even congratulation. And there was some of the latter. But only some. For the most part though, the backlash - which is this decade's ''outpouring of grief'' - was entirely against her.

Of course, Allsopp's class is going to count against her in any given situation and the wanton waste of smashing two expensive pieces of electronic equipment was mostly laid at the door of her being posh enough to buy them more.

Allsopp was also laid in to for setting a bad example to her children by indulging in what some described as a toddler-like tantrum. Better, they said, to learn to say no to one's children than to teach them to lose their tempers and destroy property.

That was the tame stuff, obviously, as we are talking about an online backlash, where normal codes of behaviour don't count. Faceless strangers can say what they want and they do, and they did when it came to Kirstie Allsopp last week.

She spoke up for and defended herself through Tuesday, but then, perhaps accepting the futility of this, Allsopp left Twitter on Wednesday. Better adult example, one might say, than any smashing of an iPad.

Last Tuesday, the annual report from CyberSafeIreland showed that one-third of eight-year-olds and 92pc of 13-year-olds own a smartphone. The latter statistic surely can surprise no one - and we're just kidding ourselves if we are too shocked by the former.

What came as a genuine shock, though, was that in the CyberSafeIreland's surveys, 42pc of children said they had conversed with a stranger online. Some 14pc had conversation with strangers weekly and 18pc engaged in it daily.

This is shocking, because it is dangerous and we worry that children don't get that it's dangerous. They don't get that being mean online is bullying, they don't necessarily get that you can't share images of other people without their permission, they don't get that what is put up online stays there forever.

But do they not get these facts solely because they are immature, or also because they see their parents at all of the above?

Even more than that, they have seen their parents constantly sharing pictures of them, in all states of cute infant nudity and childhood cuteness, without their consent. We haven't an online leg to stand on, and they know it.

Kirstie Allsopp has not explained why she left Twitter last week, but maybe she's had her fill of trying to explain herself and is sticking to private action instead. However, as far as we know, Kirstie Allsopp has not smashed any of her own devices.

Sunday Independent

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