E+E Column: Balancing the real and virtual

This column comes to you from the beautiful and tranquil Lake District after a not so beautiful 11 hours in the car (we detoured via Durham) getting here this weekend. The kids coped admirably, even the baby who has recently developed a very loud aversion to his car seat. To my surprise, neither of the big two slept throughout the journey but were pacified with Super Mario Brothers on DS, the soundtrack of various Disney films provided by the magic of bluetooth and a steady supply of snacks. It got me thinking about what a good option technology can be in one’s parenting tool belt and about the importance of balance.

We read so many articles, both research and opinion based on the dangers of too much technology whilst simultaneously living with our smart phones always within arms reach. I suspect, as with most things in life, it’s about being balanced with our technology use. And importantly, making sure we apply balance and any limits to ourselves as well as our children. Although too much screen time undoubtedly affects children negatively more than adults, it surely does affect adults too, just in different ways. My pet hate is people using their phones excessively when we’re hanging out socially and I have been guilty myself on many occasions of brushing off the kids requests for attention because I’m busy checking facebook or replying to an email.

So I’ve decided (again-this is a fairly regular resolution!) to try even harder to balance my personal technology use. To leave my phone in another room, not to check my social media channels on an hourly basis, to fully engage with the children and give them my attention without my mind wondering to an item of my to-do list that I could complete with a few taps of my fingers. Hopefully if the kids see me treating technology as if it’s not the most important thing in the world, able to put it down and focus on other pursuits, they’ll be able to mirror it in their own relationship with it and will grow up with a healthy perspective on using screens.

So I’m celebrating how easy technology has made certain aspects of our lives (online grocery shopping, being able to get online even in the sticks, an amazing emerging political landscape as people can engage and mobilise quickly and with ease) but am also reclaiming the ability to turn my back on it, to fully immerse myself in reading stories with the kids, to taking a walk in the beautiful countryside and leaving my phone behind, to having a conversation without needing to ‘google’ for unknown answers. This week as we enjoy being in Wainwright’s country I will embrace the DS and portable DVD player when the weather forces us in the caravan but am very much looking forward to climbing a (little) mountain or two, visiting museums and catching up on some knitting!

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