Kids and screen time 1

I think this is true:

Boarding school children dominate the world of work because they do not spend time in their bedrooms in front of screens, a leading headmaster has said.

Rather than spending hours “hunched” over a computer or television at home, boarding school pupils can spend their time pursuing their passions, according to Martin Reader, headmaster of the £37,000-a-year Cranleigh School in Surrey.

But it’s not so much to do with boarding schools per se. It’s just a matter of excess screen time. There are plenty of working class kids at my kids’ school, and most of them spend all their time playing Fortnite. (A few years ago it was Minecraft, or watching Minecraft YouTube videos). The only thing that working-class kids will do that isn’t computer games is football. Whereas the middle-class parents run around like crazy taking their children to endless classes in ballet, tennis, piano, cricket, gymnastics, violin, drama, ice-skating, etc. Plus extra tuition in maths and other school subjects.

So it’s hardly a surprise that middle-class kids turn out to dominate the worlds of ballet, tennis, piano, cricket, gymnastics, violin, drama, ice-skating, not to mention the academic world. And it’s not surprising that working-class kids dominate the football world. Nobody complains about that, but they complain when someone from a private school who’s been acting since he was five gets a role.

The reason for the disparity is mostly down to the parents. The middle-class parents don’t have any more spare time than the working-class parents. They just give up their spare time to do these things for their kids, and run around like headless chickens for them. The working-class parents don’t. The middle-class parents are, as a result, completely frazzled all the time, while the working-class parents have much more relaxed lives.

Some call that privilege. I call it hard-working kids, and hard-working parents. We don’t call it privilege when a working-class kid gets good at football because he and his parents have devoted a lot of time and energy to his development. So why is it privilege when a middle-class kid who’s practised the violin for years does well for the same reason?

I’m not saying that either lifestyle is the correct choice. Does letting your kids be on screens non-stop from 4pm to 10pm — working-class parents typically let their kids stay up much later than the middle-class parents — actively damage them? I’m not sure it does (other than the lack of sleep, which may do). But perhaps it does damage them in an opportunity-cost way. There’s six hours a day they could have spent learning some skills. Sure you get good at video games. But most people, when they grow up, wish they could do other things well, other than wandering around on-line corridors shooting aliens. That just will not happen if most of your spare time is spent playing games and watching stupid YouTube videos.

But as for government intervention on screen time, this is an insane idea, as I blogged about last week. A government that can’t even police burglary should not be let anywhere near our children. In fact, a government that can police burglary really well still shouldn’t be let anywhere near our children, because that would be an intolerable interference in private life, and our right to live our own lifestyles. So that’s not what I’m advocating. I just want to point out some of the realities of the situation, some more of which I’ll blog about this coming week.

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3 thoughts on “Kids and screen time 1

  1. Hello Hector. Came here a few weeks ago via Tim Newman’s place and really like the blog.

    I have a 2.5 year old boy and sometimes hate myself for how much screentime I allow, so this hits home. I was very worried at first since he, being a picky eater, would eat far more if watching a show than if the TV was off. So now most meals it’s on. I would also hand him the iPhone in the morning if I needed 10 free minutes to get things in order, being useless before 8am as I am. But I’m lucky, and he got sort of over saturated, because now he watches for 20-30 minutes before the lure of the playscape or dinosaur toys overtakes him and the TV is forgotten. We’ve now settled into a decent balance of entertainment, and it’s had the knock on effect of forcing me away from the idiot box.

    I know I’m fortunate, but if a lazy couch potato like me can make the effort to entertain and educate away from the telly, it can’t be impossible.

  2. I know the feeling of being extremely tired and giving the kids screen-time so they leave me alone. Or being extremely busy.

    It’s a great feeling when they get too old for a show you’re sick to death of, like In the Night Garden. But then they move on to something else which drives you nuts after a while.

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