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Growing up in the digital age

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When I was five I’m pretty sure all I wanted for my birthday was yet another Sindy doll or plastic accessory so the 11inch high doll could live out my dreams in a pink fantasy world. Ok, I was a bit of a bookworm so would no doubt also have asked for some classic Enid Blyton (who didn’t love Malory Towers?) or Roald Dahl (by the way, how many more Christmases am I going to have to wait until I can see Danny Champion of the World on the BBC?). That little, naive girl growing up in the 70s could never have imagined a time when her peers would be asking for tablets, DS gamers and even mobile phones for their birthday.

Back then you had 10p in your pocket to make an emergency call from a phone box. Even when I hit my teenage years phone conversations with friends had to be conducted in a surreptitious whisper, the tangled phone cord reaching as far away from prying ears as possible.

But now my soon to be six year old has asked for a tablet for her birthday. She has very limited knowledge of the internet – she wants her own device to play child-friendly games and maybe watch some Disney inspired things on You Tube – all very innocent and all will be 100% supervised but I am still struggling with the fact she wants to be part of what I see as the grown up world so soon.

When it comes to technology the gap between my generation and our children is the biggest there’s ever been. A world of loading a computer game with a tape recorder (turning it over half way through play) and going to the library to find the answer to homework problems seems a million miles away from the interactive addiction of Minecraft and every researcher’s best friend Google. My parents had the same TV and radio/record player for years and only brought new when the old one was broken- the only difference being the new one was a different colour. Now technology is so advanced that things are out of date as soon as they hit the shelves.

Growing up, my views of the future were shaped by Michael J Fox’s hoverboard and self tying trainers and the latest crazy invention on Tomorrow’s World. Nothing prepared me for what we are facing in 2015! Don’t get me wrong I love technology and with the right safeguards in place I think it’s a marvellous thing and, used sensibly, can only do good for young people. But with no precedent set or guidelines from my parents to follow, deciding when to let my daughter enter the world of technology is one of the few parenting  decisions me and my husband have had to make on our own.

We are both really tech savvy but that doesn’t mean I want to be the unpopular parent who breaks away from the pack and sets the standard by letting her daughter be the first to own a tablet or phone, neither do I want to be the stick in the mud making technology out to be frightening and something that should be banned. I honestly believe that part of the reason the Disney film Frozen has taken the world by storm  is that it is encouraging old fashioned play. I’d much rather hear yet another strangled chorus of ‘Let it Go’ and watch my daughter and her friends act out every scene from the movie than see them heads down crowded round a computer. I think other parents feel the same hence us all feeding into the animated ice cold frenzy.

So my daughter will probably be opening a tablet on her birthday (maybe with a Frozen cover) – it won’t be top of the range and we will make sure all the parental restrictions are activated, I just hope that when she has kids her technological knowhow will stand her in better stead than mine (now someone please get that hoverboard to market…)

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