Keep your iPads, give me goldfish and gerbils any day of the week – Blaise Tapp

Blaise would rather his children were playing with gerbils than tapping on their iPads
Blaise would rather his children were playing with gerbils than tapping on their iPads
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The great ‘screen time’ debate has reared its head again, this time after paediatricians said there’s no medical evidence that sitting in front of computers is bad for kids.

Cue lots of finger jabbing from those on both sides of the divide, with the old school among us expressing disbelief that afternoon-long marathons of Mortal Kombat could ever compete with fresh air and kiss chase.

This latest study didn’t really clear anything up as our finest medical brains were also unable to confirm whether gawping at a flickering screen for hours upon end was actually good for young minds, while the advice that digital activity should be avoided an hour before bedtime was a statement of the bleedin’ obvious.

Pretty much since the birth of the microchip, preventing kids from frittering away their formative years at the expense of traditional childhood pursuits has been a perpetual problem for generations of parents.

I am no exception as my two would, given the chance, spend the day glued to a device but, as a nominal grown up it is my job to come up with healthier alternatives, which is easier said than done.

There are only so many country walks you can go on and, in my experience, visiting stately homes with a rumbustious three-year-old, who has a penchant for manhandling other people’s things, is never going to end well.

So we did what millions of others before us have done – we looked for a pet.

The obvious solution would be to get a dog but as I have an aversion to putting faeces in my coat pocket, that option was ruled out a long time ago so we are left with the ‘easier’ alternative of a goldfish and a pair of gerbils.

While they have provided plenty of welcome respite from tablets and laptops, they are not without their challenges, as events over the past few weeks have proved.

Nobody informed me that gerbils would take so much looking after, although my only real involvement comes once every fortnight when I am called upon to cart the gerbilarium – a dirty great big glass tank half the size of a coffin – outside to be hosed down and disinfected.

Turns out that I cannot do that right, as just before Christmas, I managed to drop the said rodents’ house, causing it to crack.

Finding a replacement over the festive period has proved to be easier said than done and Ed and Bruno, named after Messrs Sheeran and Mars, have spent the past fortnight residing in a taped-up abode, which wouldn’t look out of place in the favelas of Rio De Janeiro.

The goldfish is easier right? Wrong. Last week I was woken by the anguished cry of our nine-year-old who had ventured downstairs to discover her pal floating on the top of his tank.

While nobody would be blamed for assuming that it was Goodnight Mr Chips for our scaly friend, it turns out he was constipated, which, we have since learned is a thing among domesticated marine life. It wasn’t long before we discovered that bunged up cyprinidae respond well to cooked garden peas on the end of cocktail sticks, which I consider something of a delicious irony.

Needless to say George, who is now known as Lazarus, has never been healthier and despite all the recent trauma, I am still of the opinion that pets trump iPads every time.