Look up and see what’s around you
I remember the first time I saw a child in a shop transfixed by a tablet. As my eldest son, who could have only been about three, was running amok around Next or Argos or wherever we were this young lad was patiently queueing up with his dad.
Of course, the patience was only caused by one thing – the electronic device in his hand.
And this spell of quiet may well have ended when the tablet was taken from him when they left the shop.
But at the time, I am somewhat embarrassed to say I thought it was quite cool.
My boy running around the aisles playing hide and seek with his exasperated dad against another one enjoying the kind of videos or video games that I would have enjoyed in my youth.
The subsequent years have made me change tack a little. I still think video games are quite cool, especially when me and my two boys indulge in a three-player game on the PlayStation.
And I still think tablets and electronic devices can teach our young minds so much.
But they can also turn those same minds into little anti-social beings where you are lucky to get a syllable out of them, let alone a meaningful sentence.
Where the beauty of your surroundings can be blissfully ignored by the sound of a mobile device.
These fears were cemented by a stark warning contained in a World Health Organisation report this week which stated a ‘steep increase’ in the amount of time young people are using electronic devices, whether games or social media.
While obviously reducing the amount of time children exercise, this also leads to an increased risk of ill health, namely cardiovascular disease, obesity and Type 2 diabetes.
So what can be done?
First of all, I would say it’s not easy.
Of course, you can ban children from laptops and phones altogether, but then I would argue they miss out on something that is now an everyday part of life.
Surely it is better to give them an allotted time/day limit and make sure they get plenty of opportunities to be active – as surely the real world has to trump the virtual one.
Then there are two simple words that I have tried – though occasionally failed – to instil in my boys from a very young age: ‘Look up’.
Look up when you are under the biggest tree or the biggest sky. Look up when you are on a ‘boring’ car journey and see what’s around you.
And surely the occasional ‘look up’ when you are being spoken to or asked a question isn’t too much to ask. At least until you are a teenager!