Why banning all screen time would be a mistake

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Us parents are very good at feeling guilty.

If it’s not about the odd glass of wine we drank when pregnant then it’s the gut-wrenching guilt of feeding our child a packet of cheese strings when we knew full well that a carrot stick would have been much better for them.

Another major bone of contention is how much ‘screen time’ our children should have.

When I was a child, computers took three hours to start up and even then had limited power (although I did enjoy the amazing graphics and gaming experience of Pac Man).

I only ever saw a mobile phone on the TV and it was the size of a loaf of bread. The idea of a VHS recorder was as mind blowing as George Michael coming out.

Of course, now I have embraced modern technology in all its forms. I am fairly computer-savvy and I am never far away from my iPhone.

In turn, the children are adept at downloading, uploading, synching and they can even use the kettle to make me a cup of tea. They also, of course, love relaxing in front of the TV and are a little too good at choosing movies to watch on demand and inputting our ‘secret’ PIN.

But many parents, especially when their children are young, become guilt-ridden with the amount of TV their children watch. And as they get older, it becomes a battle about whose turn it is on the computer/PS3/X Box. And all along, us parents are concerned that they should be doing jigsaw puzzles or outside riding their bikes, as we did.

Recently, a book has been published about a woman, Susan Maushart, who imposed a six-month ban on technology in her home.

She had three teenagers, all obsessed with their laptops, phones and games consoles.

So no Facebook, texting or gaming. They had to play board games, eat together and – horror of horrors – speak to each other.

The experiment proved to be a success and with this imposed ban they all learnt to live their life rather than allowing life to live them.

But I think that our children can learn from us that screens are not all bad and to be banned or rationed.

In the past month or so I have discovered through Facebook that my friends and family all survived the earthquake in Christchurch.

I have seen photographs of their houses, along with their cracked foundations and wonky walls.

And within an hour of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan I learnt that my brother was OK.

Throughout that day I kept in contact with him, through Facebook and Twitter, learning that he had spent some time under his desk at work and that his son had been stuck at school for a while because he couldn’t get a train home.

I could even play pseudo-Scrabble with him though our iPhones to keep up morale, even though he was on the other side of the world.

So don’t assume that screens are always bad.

Ultimately, we do live in an age where these devices are common place and by embracing them and showing by example how they can be used appropriately, we can send out the right message to our children.