Are We Losing Our Children To The Digital Age?

Compared to other parents it has always felt like maybe we are too strict when it comes to our children's access to technology. We don't own an iPad, which seems to make us a minority, and our phones are not full of apps for the children to use.

Both of the boys have Leappads which we feel are age appropriate. These are also more likely to cope when being dropped and bashed about in excitement.
I own a Kindle and made it clear when I first set it up that it was mine, and although we do teach the boys to share we also think it is important that they respect that there are somethings that are not for them and that we should enjoy for ourselves (for example, my husband doesn't even use my Kindle).
I made the mistake of adding a free Hungry Caterpillar app to my Kindle and from that moment on the boys were obsessed with wanting to be on it all the time. After a few times removing the app I would switch my Kindle back on to find that the boys had somehow managed to get it to appear again, now other than them clearly knowing technology better than me as I obviously hadn't deleted it from the tablet as I thought, it also made me realise that they can download and add anything.
This again I realised when I noticed 4 children's books had been purchased via the app store on my Kindle. Thankfully this was easy to refund but when I looked at how easy it would have been for the boys to have ordered an inappropriate book I realised that we were right to want to restrict them from these pieces of technology in the first place.

Although I will quite happily download a book onto my Kindle and read it I want our children to appreciate real books. To know what they feel like, what they smell like, and how it feels to turn each page in anticipation. I want them to end up with a book that has been well read, with turned down corners and a spine that is full of creases and wrinkles.
I want them to experience visiting the library and to know that you don't just buy books via an app store or via the Internet and to instead visit and enjoy bookshops.

I don't want them to learn everything via an app. And although I appreciate and accept that there are a lot of really useful educational apps out there, at 3 and 5 I don't feel that our boys need those apps in their lives. I would rather sit down with them and teach them things by looking in a book or by drawing diagrams or using random household items to explain how things happen or how things work.

It is common practise now to stick an iPad under a childs nose in the morning so parents can get an extra half an hour (or more) sleep. Whether a child is playing on an app or watching Youtube videos, my personal opinion is that us parents should be closely monitoring what they are watching, which we cannot do when we are asleep.

I have been known to let the boys have my phone to watch videos on Youtube. This only happens in desperate situations though mind, and will be to watch nursery rhymes, the Dinosaur Song or the Iguana Song they really like. And surprisingly it can only take a few clicks for them to be able to (innocently) stumble across something which is totally inappropriate.

A recent study carried out by Lenstore looking into the damaging effects of digital devices to our eyes had some shocking results.

The results that stood out the most for me were:

Owning devices
  • Nearly 1 in 3 children aged 2-4 own a tablet (30%) and 10% have a mobile phone.
  • 37% of children aged 5-7 own a tablet, 22% own a mobile phone and 12% already have a Facebook profile.
  • 1 in 5 8-10 year olds (20%) already have a Facebook profile with 41% owning a tablet and 36% owning a mobile phone. 8-10 year olds are also the most likely to have an Ask.fm account (8%).
  • Nearly half of parents surveyed with children aged 11-13 said their child owned a tablet (49%), 75% said their child owned a mobile phone and 46% already have a Facebook profile. 11-13 year olds are also more likely to own a tablet than 14-16 year olds (43%).
  • The survey revealed that 83% of 14-16 year olds have a mobile phone which enables 69% of them to already have Facebook, 1 in 3 to have Twitter (33%), 27% to have Instagram and 26% to have Snapchat.
  • Less than half of parents surveyed with children aged 5-7 (41%) and 8-10 (49%) said they check their child’s online activity or even monitor their use of digital devices (5-7 year olds – 47% and 8-10 year olds - 48%) 
Main Concerns
  • The majority of parents with children aged 2-4 DON’T worry about any of the identified side effects of digital use e.g. sleep quality, attention deficit, obesity, eye strain
  • The main worries for parents with children aged 5-7 years old were behavioural problems (31%), attention deficit (29%) addiction (24%) and eye strain (24%)
  • The main concerns for parents with children aged 8-10 years of age were behavioural problems (34%), sleep quality (31%) and headaches (30%)
  • The main concerns for parents with children aged 11-13 years old were sleep quality (41%), eye strain (40%) and headaches (34%)
  • The top worries for parents with children aged 14-16 were sleep quality (44%), eye strain (40%) and headaches (29%)  
  • The survey results show that children learn to manoeuvre their way around a tablet(52% based on children aged 2-10) before learning vital skills such as swimming (42% based on children aged 2-10) and telling the time (37% based on children aged 2-10)
  • They are also more likely to confidently use a mobile phone before being able to read or ride a bike. 
Charles has to go to the hospital for eye checks regularly, and my husband has just had laser eye surgery which my nan also had a couple of years ago as she was almost blind, so eye care and keeping our eyes healthy and at their best is really important to me and is something I really care about. We are as strict as we can be when it comes to sunglasses and protecting our eyes from the sun, and want to do the same when it comes to protecting our childrens eyes (as well as our own) and protecting them from possible damage caused by digital devices.
Dr Rob Hogan gives some top tips and preventative measures to help keep your childs eyes healthy.

What are your views when it comes to children and digital devices? Does your children know his/her way around an iPad better than you?
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