We didn’t let Hannah go outside before she was 2. Now we only let her go outside into a small area for 30 minutes a day. You really have to be careful with outside time. I know several people whose kids have fallen over and hurt themselves outside, sometimes even breaking bones. I even heard about a child who was abducted while they were outside. And bullying is a real concern, so much bullying happens when kids are outside. So really it’s for her own safety that we restrict and monitor her outside time. Not to mention the impact on literacy – kids just turn into zombies outside, playing on the same equipment in the same way over and over again. Parents really just use playgrounds as babysitters anyway. Plus kids get tired and irritable after being outside. When she’s older we’ll probably let her go outside a bit more but not without careful monitoring of everything she does.
If it sounds absurd, it’s because it is. And yet substitute the word ‘outside’ with the word ‘screen’ and everyone thinks it’s not only reasonable, but laudable. I suppose the policies of schools I taught in should have been a tip-off, but I didn’t realise before I had a child how pervasive the screen time demonisation narrative was, and how left-field, how utterly divergent, it was to not only allow screen time but afford absolute autonomy with it. I’ve written about it before, a couple of years ago, and not much has changed. Hannah is nearly four now and still has her own unrestricted iPad to which she has unrestricted access (although she does have a few “kid” apps on there now, as it turns out there are some excellent ones like Toca Lab). And in that time I have come across almost nobody, in parenting circles at least, who approaches technology the way that I do. I am a cowboy amongst parents.
Obviously my thinking in this regard is framed largely from an educational perspective (and partially from a ‘idk maybe treat kids as autonomous capable humans’ perspective), but this morning I came across an argument I hadn’t considered – a feminist perspective.
It’s an imperfect article, in that it still operates on the underlying assumption that technology/screen time is probably a little bit bad, but it at least presents arguments outside of the narrative perpetuated everywhere else. Importantly, it also makes the point that there are key arguments missing from the current discussion, including that kids who have their online access severely restricted run into more trouble online. I mean, learning by doing is a basic educational principle but it’s still useful to see it articulated to a specific audience in this way.
I really think there’s room for some big and challenging conversations to start happening around technology in parenting spaces. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem at this point like many people are willing to have them.