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"While you might judge me, this parenting trick is my saviour."

Com’on…don’t you?

There is a VIP in my children’s life.  A third arm. An extra helping hand.

It is a vital part of my family life. Often keeping the kids company in bed, always reliable for long car journeys. Ready with a laugh and a game. A constant feature of our holidays and, on special occasions, even has meals with us.

This VIP at times is a child-minder. Sometimes a teacher.  Always a playmate. I use this VIP as a punishment, and quite regularly as a reward.

I freely admit I couldn’t be without this VIP.

I am, of course, talking about our tablet.

At first I felt guilty when this VIP wormed its way into our life. I tutted at those “other mums” with their chubby babies tapping away propped up in the shopping trolley (covered, of course, by one of those germ protectors.) I felt that first-time mum smugness that MY little darling was simply chewing on a bag of frozen peas.

But then my second child came along, and then my third and I came to the realisation that life without a tablet, to keep your kids in line, was simply too hard.

Are you horrified? (You must be a first time mum…you’ll get me someday.)

The best bed babysitter. Image via iStock.
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Sure, I set limits and try and encourage them to use the educational apps. And yes, occasionally they actually switch off Minecraft and Dress-Up-Dora and do Readings Eggs.

But I still feel guilty and I was struck by it again the other day when I read an article in an online UK newspaper where the author was extremely concerned about the welfare of Prince George.

It seems that at only 18-months the future King of England is hooked on the device.

The revelation by his father was so shocking to much of the world’s media that it even made Time Magazine.

A CEO of some complicated electronics company who had met with Prince William said, “He told me that his son George has been playing iPad games and loves them, and that this was a good way to teach him the inner workings of electronics.”

Inner workings of electronics.

He’s kidding himself right. But let's let him have that. Just a sweet first time parent justifying allowing his kid to squish ants on his phone so he gets five minutes to read the paper in peace. We’ve all been there right?

But the fact is that each and every time we hand these devices over to our little ones a tiny twinge of guilt does hit us. We worry that we are damaging our children. We worry that they aren’t getting enough interaction with “real humans”. We worry we are short-circuiting their tiny brains in some unfathomable way that is yet known by researchers.

A poll by parenting website Babies.co.uk found that one in seven allow their toddler to spend more than four hours a day playing with a tablet device.

Psychologists and experts slam us with warnings about the dangers of too much screen time.

Those minutes of pure quiet is invaluable. Image via iStock.
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They tell us that using them as  “electronic babysitters” is lazy and harmful.

They tell us we are interfering with “talk time.”

They tell us it will mess up our kids language development and ability to walk.

(Little do they know our children are going to be brilliant electrical engineers.)

They fill us with fears that keep us up at night.

Will my kids be able to read?

Will my five-year old’s thumb fall off?

Will I have to pretend I am interested in Minecraft for ALL his childhood?

Well, the fact is that while these “studies” may be right to some degree they aren’t realistic.

Tablets ARE real life. Let’s ditch the guilt mums, with a few realistic limitations I encourage you too to embrace this VIP and take advantage as much as you can.

Because it may be the only break you get.

How often do you rely on your electronics to 'babysit' your kids?

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