Times Are Changing
In these screen-obsessed times, there's so much to worry about as a parent. But are we overreacting - and how can we keep our children healthy and safe? Here's how to negotiate the tricky areas...
They're Always Glued to the TV...
Children's TV consumption has increased dramatically, but that's hardly surprising when we grew up with three - or at most four - channels whereas their choice is virtually limitless.
We fear that TV is a passive experience - yet it's important to remember that children don't need to be actively stimulated every second of the day. As iVillager Tanya, 40, puts it: 'My sons were telly-obsessed when they were little but now they're older [aged 13 and 15], more things are vying for their attention. They now look upon telly as a way to relax, just as I do.'GETTY IMAGES
Computer Games are Making Them Aggressive...
Children as young as five act out violent scenes from games such as car crashes and gory deaths, according to The Association of Teachers and Lecturers.
Yet you can do much to limit your child's experience of inappropriate games. Remember that the age restrictions on games are there for a reason. If your child is allowed to play adult games at a friend's house, question whether you're happy for him to go there.
Plus, it's helpful to discuss what violence means in real life - that people get hurt, experience pain and even die, and that it's certainly not 'fun.'GETTY IMAGES
They Spend Too Much Time Online...
If you totted up the hours your child spends online every week, you'd probably be horrified (according to research company ChildWise, the average child clocks up 110 minutes per day).
But do consider that, to today's children, chatting online is as normal as phoning a friend was in days gone by. As long as they are still active - engaged in sports and interacting face-to-face with friends - online activities are just another aspect of your child's varied life.GETTY IMAGES
They're Shunning 'Proper' Books...
You might worry that your child is only reading bite-sized chunks of text on screen. Remember, though, that he will still be engaging with 'proper' texts at school, and is unlikely to lose his ability to concentrate for more than a paragraph.
Even previously keen readers can temporarily go off books (typically during the early teens when children's books feel too young for them, whilst full-length adult fiction can be daunting).
Yet, if you keep suggesting good reads for him to try, chances are your child will eventually rediscover his love of a cracking story.GETTY IMAGES
They're Befriending Strangers...
It's a real concern and, although your child is likely to have had internet safety talks at school, it's important to reiterate the message. However, don't let the occasional (albeit horrific) news story throw you into panic.
The main rule to establish is that your child must never 'friend' anyone online that they don't know in real life. 'My daughter Beth - aged twelve - had a friend request from someone purporting to be her age, saying she liked Barbies,' says her mother Jacqueline, 36.
'It was obvious they weren't who they were pretending to be, and a good lesson for Beth to stick to our rules.'
For cyber saftey info, visit Screen Smart.GETTY IMAGES
They're Becoming Socially Isolated...
Being glued to a mobile or mouse can contribute to a whole raft of ills, from social exclusion to obesity. If you're concerned, talk to your child about why he spends so much time alone (if he's hooked on a video game, establish time limits for play and agree on certain game-free days).
Perhaps he is obsessed with a new game? What kind of alternative, outdoor/active pursuits could you offer? Remember, too, that technology allows us to all communicate in many more ways, which is no bad thing.
After all, when you first learnt to text, it didn't stop you from meeting friends face-to-face.GETTY IMAGES
Using Text-Speak Means They Can't Spell...
Not so, according to research by the University of Coventry. In fact, using abbreviations is even associated with strong literacy skills, as it requires a child to understand the nature of language and engage in word play.
Plus, text-speak has a time and place - it's unlikely to spread, rash-like to your child's school essays. In the same way they use slang, most children are aware when it's appropriate and when they are expected to spell out their words in full.GETTY IMAGES
The Internet Does Their Homework for Them...
Your might suspect your child copies great chunks off Wikipedia - but teachers aren't fools and most can spot a direct lift at fifty paces. With younger children, praise them for finding the relevant facts online, but encourage them to re-write them in their own words.
It's important, too, that children realise that not all the information out there is necessarily correct. In encouraging your child to check her facts, you'll be helping her to adopt a thoughtful, thorough approach.GETTY IMAGES
They Can't Concentrate on Anything...
Of course they can't if they're constantly texting or checking Facebook on their phone. Screen overload can make children listless and lack concentration - so, whilst teachers generally ban phone use in school, at home it's worth setting a few rules.
For instance, if you're watching a movie together, insist on no phone or laptop within reach. It's part of our role as parents to show our children that, if they focus on one thing at a time instead of darting from screen to screen, they'll enjoy the experience a whole lot more.GETTY IMAGES
I Feel I Don't Understand My Child Anymore...
Do keep abreast with how your child communicates, whilst also setting a healthy example by spending much of your leisure time screen-free, rather than glued to the iPlayer or surfing the web.
Technology is moving on apace, making a world of knowledge easily accessible to your child. Yet it's also vital to keep in touch with the real world. And if your child is driving you crazy by being constantly glued to a screen? Well, there's always the option of turning it off...
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