Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 2 September 2014

Why bringing up our kids should be child's play... or maybe it's not

Nurse, the screens! Yup, top experts have issued new warnings about kiddies watching nothing but tellies and computers, while real life flits by unnoticed outside.

Who can blame the kiddies really? I can't abide all that sanctimonious Daily Telegraph tripe about making children swing from tree to tree with the risk of falling on their heids.

According to the DT, the risk is good for them. They say children shouldn't be cosseted. Yes, they should.

They say - or at least write on their computers - that kids should be "out there", in the real world. Well, this news just in: the real world stinks. And yomping, right-wing nutters can stuff it somewhere in the vicinity of where they were spanked at public school.

However, even those of us inclined to protect children agree that, if they must breathe, then it would be better to do so outside, perhaps chained safely to a tree in the back garden.

Oddly enough, the "make them face danger" brigade are also calling for the state to step in, not so much going round houses and yanking kids into the street, but issuing daily limits of screen time, much as they do with alcohol, salt and fat for grown-ups. As someone who thinks the state should run everything, I'm tempted to agree with this, but it would still be up to parents to enforce the limit, and there'll be some who believe their beloved sproglings will learn more from the virtual world than from the somewhat smelly real one.

However, these latter risk becoming obese and socially gauche. Obesity is a huge problem, though you could attach the little tykes' screens to treadmills and force them to waddle briskly as they surfed or played improving video games based on merciless violence.

As for becoming socially gauche, jeez, get an indoor life. The socially inclined have ever been a pain in the butt, with their parties, whooping and disco-dancing. Still, leading worriers fear that introverted, screen-addicted children can't make proper eye contact with other human beings. Good.

What is this obsession with eye contact? I've always found people who make obsessive eye contact a bit creepy. Politicians and salesmen are particularly prone to it. As with sensible animals, I fear that folk staring deep into my eyeballs mean me harm. They're trying to control me. Animals think it means they're about to be eaten. Not good, on the whole.

At least if you're constantly staring at a screen, the only person you're harming is yourself. So, yes, fair enough, we shouldn't let the little ignoramuses spend every spare moment gawping at God knows what.

I wouldn't let them play violent video games, and am appalled at parents who give toy ordnance to little boys. However, I'm also aware of the dangers of turning them into gimps.

In Norway, the Breivik atrocity has sparked a debate that asks if all their right-on niceness has made Norwegians unable to cope with bad people. It's arguable, I suppose.

However, you could send the kids to martial arts classes, which may offer unrealistic training for fights, but have the merit of being indoors and well supervised.

They'd also come into contact with other human beings - or the enemy - and learn how to poke them in the eye. That's the only form of eye contact you really need.

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