When Sydney mum Larissa Chan takes her young son to the local shopping centre, she steers clear of the kids’ play area.
The play area, in Chatswood Chase, features six iPads and an interactive TV screen. The area was recently upgraded, but the iPads weren’t removed – even though parents, including Chan, had asked for them to be.
“We now try to avoid going up to Level 2 when I have my almost four-year-old with me as he doesn’t need any additional exposure to screens,” Chan tells Mamamia.
“If I need to go to any of the stores up there I will go when I don’t have him with me.”
Chan says she restricts her son’s screentime to one hour in the evenings while she’s bathing his younger sister and putting her to bed. Because he sees screentime as the “forbidden fruit”, he will make a beeline for any screen he sees.
“If it’s in use by someone else, he will happily just sit or stand behind them and watch rather than play with anything else,” she explains. “In a lot of the parents’ rooms there are TVs and those puzzle wall units. My son would always pick the TV and happily watch it while I nursed my daughter.”
She says she doesn’t expect kids’ play areas to be fancy. Even simple foam blocks can provide entertainment for toddlers.
“Having a few things for them to climb, slide down, crawl through or ride on is great,” she adds.
Chan has contacted Chatswood Chase about her concerns, but just received a “standard response”. She says other parents feel the same way she does.
“There is overwhelming agreement with other parents on various local Facebook groups that the iPads need to go.”
Mamamia contacted Chatswood Chase for comment. A spokesperson said that the play area was “a popular destination for parents looking at ways to entertain their children when they visit our centre”.
“The play pod was designed with children of this generation in mind and we know that everyone uses this space differently,” the spokesperson added.