Tuesday 12 December 2017

Rowan Pelling: You’re techie-savvy toddler wants to take over the world so switch off those gizmos before it’s too late

JENNIFER Egan’s epoch-defining novel A Visit from the Goon Squad ends with a vision of our near future: by the 2020s toddlers have become the music industry’s most influential consumer group, known as "pointers" for the ease with which they download tracks via touch screens. One critic told me she found this final chapter "implausible". She wouldn’t have said that, I replied, had she had a toddler in her house.

It’s commonplace now to see tots who can’t talk, but can navigate an iPhone with ease, or infants who scowl when they touch a computer screen that doesn’t respond with the immediate elasticity of an iPad. These fledgling hi-tech junkies are, of course, reflections of their Wi-Fi-zombie mums and dads. I can’t be the only parent who has, on occasion, conducted an entire conversation with a child without once tearing my eyes away from a screen – leading my younger son to shout, “You’re not looking at me, Mummy!”

Granted, I work from home and my laptop is the tool of my trade, but I can’t avoid the guilty realisation that my computer can seem, at times, even more compelling than my offspring – or, at least, less demanding. I am equally aware that the TV sometimes makes a convenient au pair. It’s small wonder a psychologist, Aric Sigman, this week warned of the perils of “passive parenting” and “benign neglect” caused by our reliance on gadgets.

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