FAMILY GUY COLUMN: Staying in with technology is the new way of 'playing out'
You can't open a newspaper or turn on the TV or radio these days without some sort of daily assault of how technology is ruining our children's lives.
Warning about apps that expose youngsters to dangerous types, sexting, suicidal craze dares, inappropriate online videos, games that promote violence - just a handful of things that have sent parents into a frenzy in recent years.
I am sure that most of these warnings will have been either devoured by mums and dads or totally ignored as scare mongering.
I fall in the middle on such issues.
While I don’t want my sons exposing to the nastiness that’s no doubt out there, they can’t be molly-coddled forever and sooner or later, there’s bound to be a mate in the school playground that’s going to show something risqué, offensive or whatever else to for shock value or to get a reaction.
There are many vociferous critics of gaming and the way it turns our kids into zombie like vegetables, but I monitor closely what mine are up to, what they are playing and who they are playing against when they are on their Xbox.
Rather than far-flung non-existent “friends” in all corners of the globe they will never actually see and meet, my eldest lad likes to play against his actual, real friends from school.
He turns on his headset and can while away many an hour chatting to his pals. Admittedly, they aren’t exactly discussing Brexit, a cure for cancer or world peace, but they are communicating and interacting with other real people they know.
OK, so they could be out and about kicking a football around (which they also do regularly anyhow) but this is the modern form of hanging out. It might seem a bit weird and wonderful to us that four separate teenagers in four separate bedrooms on opposite sides of town is “playing” but it is how things are today - and that’s how it should be.
With puberty and hormones kicking in and some upheaval to contend with in the last 12 months, it is his form of chilling out, kicking back and relaxing. Rather than vegging out in front of the TV like we used to do (who remembers excitedly putting the kids’ telly on as soon as they got home?), Xboxes, PS4s, iPads, YouTube, Snapchat and Instagram are the new tools of relaxation for our children.
One things for certain, there’s no arguments over who gets the remote control these days as kids seem to have shunned actually telly for watching Netflix on their phones.
I’d much rather put up with the endless yelps and yells and screams of delight coming from in front of the screen as he either wins or loses, rather than him sitting there for hours on end playing with himself (no, not in that sense) without speaking, or more worryingly, hooking up with types that he genuinely doesn’t know.
Obviously, I still keep an eye on what he’s up to and watching but don’t always believe the hype of the dangers out there.