When Lushnessblog got her own weekly column!

Very exciting news Lushnessblog followers! I am rather thrilled to say that I am now the Family Matters columnist for the Portsmouth News every Tuesday, yay. The column follows a similar theme to many of the blogs… here is a little taster of this week’s that appeared on Tuesday 26th November 2013. If you like it and you’re local, then grab yourself a copy of the Portsmouth News on Tuesdays!

Screen Time and the Christmas Stocking


The countdown has begun, the Gunwharf lights have been switched on, and so it must be true: Christmas is nearly upon us, bringing with it all the festive rituals, including parental lies (“Santa won’t bring you any presents if you’re not good!”), and the accompanying parental angst, concerning how much we should spend and what on. Because let’s face it, no matter how bald we’ve become from ripping our hair out in frustration at our children, none of us has ever given into the temptation to leave an empty sack under the tree on Christmas morning!


It seems that this year, no matter which way I turn, parents everywhere are purchasing one particular gift for their off-spring. “What can this be?” I hear you exclaim. Perhaps a mechanical stuffed toy of epic proportion with a battery requirement that could power a small country? Or an array of plastic alien creatures, small enough to choke the dog, yet also embed themselves in your spine when left within the sheets of the matrimonial boudoir? But no, fellow parents, this year’s top gift seems to be, for good or for bad, the tablet.


For anyone born after 1980 then I don’t need to clarify that this does not refer to the kind of tablet readily available at the local chemist. Instead, parents everywhere are being boggled with technical jargon, competitive tabletting (“I see your Nexus and raise you an iPad Mini, mwaha!”) and now, even Tesco have waded into the Great Tablet Offering, by launching their very own Hudl.


But here’s the question that bothers me: do our children – especially those in infant school and juniors – actually need a tablet? Or is this a case of technology baby-sitting our young? There have been numerous studies cited in the press concerning the effect that so much screen time is having on our children, with their communication and social skills being first to suffer. There is the suggestion that when the parenting gets tough, the parents dish out the tablet with an app to keep the tiddlers quiet and amused. The temptation of this for us parents is understandable (my husband and I started a conversation in the labour ward seven years ago when my waters broke and are still yet to finish it), but at least when the tablet is yours and not theirs, then you have the say of when to put it away.


Parenting is a veritable minefield at all times, especially when the tiny despots of our own making put the pressure on for particular presents because all of their friends have one, and they are the only child on planet earth not to be driving a Bugatti Veyron to school. But, perhaps this year, it might be nice to include the odd board game in the Christmas stocking, or – oh the nostalgia! – a skipping rope and slinky! That is, unless they’ve been truly naughty… after all, how much emotional scarring can one empty sack leave?!


(First printed in Portsmouth News, 26th November 2013.)