in Family

Children and technology

At bedtime tonight my two boys spent 20 minutes walking me through their Minecraft book and excitedly telling me me all about the worlds they have created, the things you can build and the characters you can encounter. They’ve been reaching for the iOS version of the game at every opportunity we give them. As much as I enjoyed talking to them about it I always feel so paralysed and conflicted about the children and technology. Half of me wants to just embrace getting computers, Raspberry Pis etc. to encourage them and the other half of me is scared of losing them to computer and video game addiction and/or the perils of the Internet.

It feels weird that the adults in the house have pretty much unrestricted use of technology and the kids just have a little bit of time playing games. When I was little in the mid-80s to mid-90s it was the other way around—I spent endless hours on the computer and it eventually led me to a Computer Science degree and a career in technology—but those times were different. With my old Acorn Electron, BBC Micro or A3000 I was limited to playing around with the programs I had on disk, typing in ‘listings’ that were printed in magazines or writing programs of my own. I know a bit of the answer is to sit with them in order to make sure the time is spent well but this isn’t always practical and a big part of me wants them to spend time exploring and creating on their own without me supervising their every move. They should soon be showing me things that I didn’t know! By restricting their interactions with technology could they be missing out on possibilities to learn and grow?

I’ve toyed with the idea of buying a refurbished pre-Internet computer and showing them how to program it but if it doesn’t spark their imagination it would be a bit of an expensive mistake. They talk about their friends having consoles but I’m not sure I want an XBox or PlayStation in the house due to not having time myself to understand how to make them safe for the children. We can restrict the games to family-friendly ones but I assume they come with lots of social features and I’d like to turn some of those off until they are a bit older.

I realise as I type this that these are all ‘first world problems’ and in the grand scheme of things this isn’t a big deal but it continues to play on my mind as they get older. I’m sure we’ll work it out.

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