Children should be getting access to devices much later most parents deem acceptable. (Pic: iStock)
Children should be getting access to devices much later most parents deem acceptable. (Pic: iStock)

Parents need to stop using devices as babysitters

PARENTS, wake up.

It's time you stopped using internet-connected devices as digital babysitters for your very young children.

I get it. Modern day life with kids is busy. Between work and home and school drop offs and cooking dinner and getting through the washing and house cleaning, it's absolutely exhausting.

I've got two-and-a-half year old triplets, a four-year-old and a full-time job. Believe me, I understand.

It's tempting to just hand your child the iPad for 10-minutes, and then 10-minutes turns in to 30 as you race through the never-ending list of things to do and 30 minutes turns into an hour and before you know it your kids are screaming at you when you are trying to remove the device that is now another body part to them.

It's easy to have YouTube read them a bedtime story, while you get on with the washing up.

It gives you five minutes of sanity.

Lanai Scarr’s daughters Edy, 2.5 and Molly, 4. (Pic: Supplied)
Lanai Scarr’s daughters Edy, 2.5 and Molly, 4. (Pic: Supplied)

And to be honest, I'm a firm believer that tech-time for kids is not completely bad when they're getting it in small doses and for very young children it is done alongside a parent.

We live in a digital world and the reality is for our school-aged children technology is going to play a big part of their lives. They need to know and use the latest technology in order to keep up with school, friends and prepare them for a future career where the tech possibilities will be endless.

But I fundamentally think two-year-olds, and all children not of school age, should not have their own device. They should not be using an internet-connected device on their own without supervision for long periods of time. And it should not be regular.

My kids watch a small amount of television and like many kids their age are obsessed with Ben and Holly, Peppa Pig, Peter Rabbit and the Octonauts.

But they don't own their own iPad. They don't just jump on our phones whenever they like it. They play outside, they run, they draw, they paint.

We need to stop thinking it is OK and the norm for our very young children to spend hours each day on a device.

Aside from the research around the impact screen-time can have on the development of the young brain and eyes, we're also exposing our kids to significant risk online.

It’s not all adventures with Peppa Pig and Kylie Kangaroo online. (Pic: Supplied)
It’s not all adventures with Peppa Pig and Kylie Kangaroo online. (Pic: Supplied)

My story today that the AFP and Alannah & Madeline Foundation have signed an agreement to work together to educate children and parents of very young children - possibly those as young as two - is a great step towards keeping our children safer and teaching them more respect online.

But it does have me conflicted.

I fundamentally don't think a two-year-old should be using an internet-connected device to the extent that they need to be educated about the dangers they face in relation to child exploitation or cyber-bullying.

But I'm not naive enough to think that this is not happening - and in larger numbers than we'd probably like to admit.

I do talk to my kids, and have for a while, about their sexual safety.

Kids are being given unfettered access to internet-connected devices too early. (Pic: iStock)
Kids are being given unfettered access to internet-connected devices too early. (Pic: iStock)

The language is toddler-specific but both my husband and I talk about the fact that no one is to touch their genitalia, they have the right to say "no" and "stop" and that they should always talk to myself or my husband about any concerns they have. Nothing should be a secret.

I do talk to my kids about strangers and how to be safe in public.

That they should never go somewhere with an adult that myself or my husband hasn't specifically told them would be looking after them that day. Even if they offer them puppies or lollies.

But, I have to admit, I don't talk to my kids about online safety. I wouldn't even know where to start. Because they are so young, and don't use it very often, I feel they wouldn't understand.

And I guess that's the point.

I think we should be educating parents about how they can talk to their kids about being safe and respectful online.

We should be talking to our kids as soon as they are using devices.

But for me, my view is that should be much, much later than many parents are deeming acceptable today.

Lanai Scarr is a senior News Corp writer.



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