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Screen Time

“Trust in meeeee…”

Kaa’s eyes turn to swirling vortices, his coils tighten and poor Mowgli is trapped.  Those spiralling, whirlpool eyes have hypnotised the little boy, sending him into a trance.


Luckily for Mowgli, Bagheera the panther is on hand to put the python in his place and come to his rescue.  But you don’t need a Disney character to see the same mesmerising effect in recent years.  It can be seen pretty much everywhere.  On buses, walking on the street or in offices and schools across the country.  I refer to SIH, or Screen Induced Hypnosis.

If there was a self-help group called Nerds Anonymous (actually, there probably is), then I would be in that circle.  “Hello, my name is Max and I know Pi to thirty four places..”  I like love technology and am always happy playing around with the latest bits of kit.  But where cutting edge technology was once the preserve of the enthusiast, it has become an essential companion of the modern man, woman and child.

Yes, that’s right. Child.  I used to joke some years back that we’d soon have little kids with mobile phones, rocking round like miniature yuppies. And now it’s happening. In 2012, 75% of ten year olds had a phone.  But it’s not just phones of course.  The affordability of tablets has meant that anyone can carry a screen around with them.  We’ve all seen (or been) that person walking about with a screen inches from their face and little awareness of what’s around them (including lampposts, traffic and kerbs).  More cases of SIH.


Though this affliction affects a range of ages, at least for us oldies, we have at least lived in a non-digital world. So, when we are digitally deprived at any time, we can regress to simpler forms of communication and entertainment easily enough.  For some children and young adults, it has become addictive, and herein lies the exercise angle.

When I were a lad, there weren’t as much in terms of sedentary entertainment.  There was one hour of kid’s telly each day and the rest of the time we were sent to play outside if possible. So, though I was never into sport early on (more spotty than sporty), I was active.  Even playing inside would mean running around the house endlessly (sorry Mum).

I can see the appeal of the phone/tablet for a parent.  Everyone has one so it’s hard to deny your own child one and it can also serve as a robo-nanny in the short term.  I’ve seen many a grizzling child silenced by Peppa Pig popping up in a portable format, in cafes, at home or on long car journeys.  But I’ve also seen how hard it can be to tear a child (and some adults for that matter) away from a screen to do something else.  Something active maybe…  So, in this age of expanding waistlines and childhood obesity, we need to be careful that today’s children do enough exercise and that screen time is limited to a reasonable level.

One study in 2010 showed that US teenagers spend over seven hours a day in front of a screen and there are many similarly scare reports to be found . That doesn’t leave a lot of time for running around and playing games or sport, sadly.  And this is the serious point – while keeping children entertained can be difficult and time-consuming, the very real potential for damage to current and future health from inactivity is too important an issue to ignore.  So enjoy your tech, but take a break and embrace the world beyond the peripheral from time to time.


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