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The Observer Magazine - - Self & Wellbeing -

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Like so many peo­ple, I’ve long pledged to ad­dress a chronic ad­dic­tion to my phone, tablet and TV, but this has taken on more ur­gency since the boy ar­rived. Cur­rently, his only di­rect ex­po­sure to screens is five or 10 min­utes of his beloved Baby Shark videos ev­ery other day which, for some rea­son, help get him ready for bed. It’s hard to work out ex­actly what about these makes him sleepy. They’re en­er­getic, pitched at a much older age and he can’t be b dis­cern­ing any mean­ing from f the con­tent, since he doesn’t know knowwhat what a shark is. He doesn’t even know what a baby is. And he’s a baby.

Of course, it’s not just di­rect ex­po­sure ex­posu that’s a prob­lem. The Amer­i­can Academy Aca­dem of Pe­di­atrics says no child un­der 18 18m months should be around any ac­tive a screens, even e in the back­ground; b a pre­scrip­tion so s dras­ti­cally un­moored u from f the

re­al­i­ties of modern life,

I can’t help imag­in­ing it be­ing writ­ten with a quill. It’s true that I lis­ten to the ex­pert pro­hi­bi­tions when it comes to, say, ob­struct­ing my child’s wind­pipe, or feed­ing him na­chos, so maybe I shouldn’t be scep­ti­cal when their ad­vice im­pinges, how­ever slightly, on my own weak­nesses. But I had more ex­po­sure to flick­er­ing diodes than that when I was a baby, and that was be­fore screens killed the Yel­low Pages, XtraVi­sion and the con­cept of the wrist­watch.

Per­haps it was ever thus, and the hys­te­ria about screens is just pu­ri­tan­i­cal sham­ing from the sort of par­ents who say your child should be raised on a diet of pond wa­ter, turnip heads and ukulele cov­ers of rap songs. Aside from YouTube on the TV, we have phones, tablets and lap­tops. We some­times show him pho­tos we’ve taken and Facetime his nana ev­ery week - should we stop that, too?

My dad re­grets he didn’t have more screens to of­fer us. ‘There wasn’t enough of kids’ TV in your day,’ he Dhb women’s merino base layer Warm to your core. £40, wig­gle.co.uk says, with the rue­ful air of an old man at a bus stop telling you how hard it was to get ba­nanas dur­ing the war. My dad loves TV so much I’m pretty sure he can still see the 5USA logo when he shuts his eyes. But my mum was less of a fan, and he re­mem­bered that only cer­tain shows were al­lowed for us grow­ing up, nei­ther of which were tai­lored for kids. ‘ Neigh­bours, cer­tainly, and Glen­roe on a Sun­day night.’

This lat­ter of­fer­ing was a gen­tly di­vert­ing ru­ral melo­drama that ran on Ir­ish TV for two decades on a bud­get roughly equiv­a­lent to a tube of Pringles. For me, and ev­ery other Ir­ish child, it also served as the last thing we were al­lowed to watch on Sun­day, mean­ing we’d sit through 30 min­utes of crag-faced peo­ple in wellies hav­ing af­fairs near barns, just to re­sist go­ing to bed. For us, the stran­gled fid­dle mu­sic that brought each episode to a close was the haunt­ing siren that set­tled our brains for easy sleep each week. Per­haps, com­pared to that, a lit­tle Baby Shark isn’t so bad. ■

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