Set Up Screen Free Zones in Your Home and Your Child's Imagination Will Grow

Author: Cate Rocchi - Perth Media  

Let kids go outside and play, discover the world around them and be creative.


Switch the screens off at set times, have screen-free rooms in your home and slow down, says UK parenting expert Carl Honoré.

Honoré, author of Under Pressure and star of TV show Frantic Family Rescue, spoke to a large Perth crowd this week.

He said parents should not schedule in every moment of the day. They should leave time for children to get bored as this allows them to use their imagination.

Let them go outside and play, discover the world around them and be creative.

He warned families should understand how a ‘roadrunner culture’ is not always good for emotional stability and development.

Honoré said, in Silicon Valley, recently he spent time speaking to executives of Google, Apple and Microsoft.

“And what are they doing with their children? I’ll tell you what they are not doing, they are not putting them in front of ipads and Baby Einstein videos,” Honoré said.

“They are switching off the screens and giving them wooden toys and sending them out to play in the garden and the woods.”

Honoré said former Apple executive Steve Jobs didn't let his kids have all the computer gadgets and he actually had a background in calligraphy.

He said Jobs knew everyone needs space to get away from technology to find their own narrative – away from algorithms that are handed down.

Kids also need strong relationships with parents and for them to be present in the moment, not half listening to children, he said.

He was frank about his own failings as a parent and shared some lessons learnt.

He described how he had perfected the art of reading Snow White to his son skipping pages. Then one day he had a lightbulb moment. Was he really that busy that he needed to skip pages of the fairytale? Personally he had learnt to slow down with his own family.

More stimulation, especially of the electronic variety, is not necessarily going to be better for children. Any electronic stimulation in the early years is coming under serious review.

He said, in the United States, the company behind Baby Einstein has been forced to offer refunds to the parents who bought it.

“Why? Because the claims in the packaging and marketing just don't stand up to scrutiny in the cold light of day,” he said. “Because the way you create a world-famous physicist is not to plonk them in front of a screen.”

Honoré said it was very hard to get teenagers to switch off and he was certainly not against technology. They are good for the classroom, socializing and learning but they all have a little red button.

“And when we don't use that button, it starts to backfire on us, and not just on us as grown ups but on our children,” he said.

Hewlett Packard published a study in 2005 claiming constant electronic interruption, with workers addicted to checking email and text messages, can cause IQ to fall 10 points. It dubbed the fall in intelligence ‘infomania’.

Cate Rocchi is a writer and lives in Perth, Western Australia. She has worked as a reporter for more than 20 years and has submitted articles to many publications including Playtimes in Hong Kong. Cate has three children and once operated an outdoor children’s activity group in the UK in the 1990s called Kangaroo Kids. The group featured stories, walks and crafts in themes for toddlers and small children and their parents. She writes fiction under Jasper Books and owns a media company, Perth Media.

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