The iPad Babysitter

Is leaving your child in front of the computer or iPad just for some peace and quiet lazy parenting?

My two boys Harry and Alfie have always had boundless energy and they love doing sports.  Between them they do Rugby, Football and Gymnastics.  When the weekend comes they love to be out and about keeping busy.  They often go off with their dad at the weekends and do water sports off the north west Welsh coast.  They absolutely love paddle boarding and canoeing.  Another one of their all-time favourite things to do at the weekend is to go trampolining.  As soon as we get in there they are off, then an hour or two later when their session is over they return with beaming red faces, a complete sweaty mess and totally exhausted.  The drive home is always very peaceful, a car full of snoring heads.

This weekend when the boys were with their dad, my younger two took part in ‘Mini Mudder’, which is part of the Tough Mudder franchise.  Mini Mudder is a 1 mile obstacle course designed specifically for adventure-seeking kids.  The course gets the kids working as a team, gets them super muddy and gives them the thrill of adventure.  What more could 2 energetic boys want to do, obstacles, climbing, mud and a competition…all their dreams had come at once!

After the race, their dad sent over some pictures and videos.  It was brilliant to see them get really stuck in, especially as the course looked quite tough for an 8 year old.  The course is made up of mud hills, mud pools, elastic mazes that they had to navigate through, high walls and hay bales that needed climbing and lots of running in between.  It was so well thought out, the kids loved every minute of it.My two youngest boys completing the Mini Mudder

I think it’s so important to keep our kids active, especially in this day and age when we’re all obsessed with technology.

Kids have become obsessed with iPads, computer games and YouTube.  Statistics show that our children’s lack of activity is contributing to the rising rates of obesity too.

I think its all too easy for us as parents to hand the iPads over to our kids.  It’s the perfect way to keep them quiet and out of the way.  I know because I’m guilty of doing this.  The question is, how long is too long for a child to be sat in front of a computer screen or iPad?  More importantly, when does it become detrimental to their health and wellbeing?

My boys also love playing with their friends on their computer.  They get totally engrossed in them, especially my older boys at the weekend.  Gone are the days they wanted to go shopping with me;  that’s considered a chore because they’d rather be holed up playing on the computer.  There’s been times when I have come home after being out for hours and they literally haven’t moved.  I’d find crisp bags and drinks bottles just left all over the place – of course that makes the sedentary lifestyle even worse.  I go mad at them, I turn everything off, and the iPads get put away.  You should see their scowls, but I don’t care sometimes, you just have to be a parent and take control of the situation.  Left to their own devices they’d be glued to the devices!

My eldest son is 16.  iPad or iPhone entertainment wasn’t an option 16 years ago. He played, he crafted, he spent a lot more time having fun outdoors, messing about and jumping in muddy puddles. We all coped before the rise in handheld devises, why are we so quick to had them out now?

Although I love the fact that my 3 year old daughter is probably more computer savvy than me than when I left school, I still feel pangs of guilt if I’ve let any of my children stay too long in front of the screen.

I recently read an article where a mother tried to get her teenage son to stop playing the game Fortnite, and he was so angry he head butted her.  Wow!  She said he is now addicted to the game, cannot go to school anymore and only leaves the house around once a week because of it.  I actually find this quite disturbing.  How many hours, day in, day out, is a child left playing a game for them to then become addicted?  Or are there underlying reasons that can make any child susceptible to this kind of addiction?

I have recently introduced a ban on the shows Ella was watching on YouTube as I noticed a change in her behaviour.  She was watching what I thought were harmless shows with young kids, and to be fair, there was nothing sinister going on, it was just kids messing about, kind of like home made tv shows that parents must be making of their children and posting on line.  But the more I listened to them, I realised the kids in them, in my opinion anyway, could be quite bolshy and brash.  There was a subtle attitude in the shows that I noticed Ella started to mimic.  She literally developed an attitude.  Now, I am not for one minute saying all my daughter’s bad behaviours have come from watching YouTube videos, but I know for a fact, that influence hasn’t helped.

I’ve deleted the YouTube app and added lots of fun educational apps and games instead.  If we’re going on a long journey I give her the laptop and let her play one of the educational games I downloaded, or will let her watch one of her favorite films instead.  The ban on YouTube went down like a stinker.  Even now after a few weeks she still askes me if she can go on it, but the rule was unless I’ve watched and vetted it myself then, it can’t be watched.

Fundamentally, we all want what’s best for our children, we want to keep them safe and healthy.  The thought of something that many children find fun, like playing on their computer can cause harm or danger is a frightening prospect.  For now, I’ll stick to days out in park, trampolining, the sports and crazy obstacle courses over modern technology any day.

Before they wrap up for the year, there are still a few Mini Mudder events happening in London South on September 22,29,30.  Entry is via the website: toughmudder.co.uk/mini-mudder

Over the Mini Mudder finish line

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