Sunday, 24 March 2013


I have a wee niece, who turned one in late February. For her birthday my parents gave her - amongst myriad things - a fake iPad. A hunk of plastic with app-like icons that make noises when you press them.

My bemusement in that specific moment knew no end. But watching Abby play with screens - seeing her pose and smile when a phone is held up to her in the photo-taking position, seeing her point her index finger to swipe and press, seeing the way she delights in repetitive, predictable responses from the machines ("I press, it beeps, I press, it beeps, I press, it beeps ...") has been highly educational.

In the session on play that I went to at Brain Day last weekend, a number of questions were asked of panellists about whether playing video games equalled play, if screen time should be limited, if internet access should be limited, about how to get kids away from screens and into the real world. I had a lot of half-formed reactions and questions myself that I didn't voice: what about all the games aren't first-person shooters, aren't books just as socially isolating as iPad apps, don't kids need to be comfortable exploring new technology just as much as they need to be comfortable exploring other environments? - and so on.

Many of these concerns and queries have been deftly investigated by Hanna Rosin in her Atlantic article 'The Touch Screen Generation'. Highly recommended reading.

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