The help desk: My children are addicted to computers - should I restrict their time online?
Q. I have a son aged 12 and a daughter of 14. I'm devoted to both of them but I'm becoming extremely frustrated by their addiction to computers. My 14-year-old daughter in particular seems almost obsessed and this is a cause of quite a lot of conflict in our house. I restrict her time on the internet (including iPhones) to an hour a day (half-an-hour for my son), but they're resentful and always trying to get around it, and it's getting more and more difficult to police.
I know they like to keep in touch with what their friends are doing, but I get depressed seeing them doing something so mindless that's such a drain on their time. They say all their friends are allowed unlimited use of computers, though I'm not sure if this is really true. My husband says they should do what they want as long as their homework is done, though he goes along with my rules. Am I being too strict and how can we stop fighting about this?
A. I have to say your rules sound draconian to me. But I'm aware that I may be more laissez-faire about these things than most, and I doubt it's true what your children say about their friends. Still, we've never had set restrictions in our house, so here am I, your perfect devil's advocate, and here is my advice.
Get them out of their rooms and encourage them to use their computers in your presence. Then you'll know what they're actually doing. This is key. It is certainly wrong to assume that everything your children do on a computer is inferior to "real" activities. You could end up shooting yourself in the foot: "Darling, do stop writing that novel and come and bake some cupcakes with me instead."
Respect their social lives. To you, an hour online may sound like plenty of time to commune with one's social network. To a teenager, that's virtually Amish. Understand that social networking is intrinsic to their lives. Yes, you'd rather they were learning about particle physics on SciShow than just skulking around on Tumblr, but without the latter they might never have come across the former.
Your worries should be: bullying, paedophiles (pathetically easy to spot, my daughters say) and gaming addiction, which really does drain time. If gaming's the problem, tackle that with your restrictions.
Finally, don't be a hypocrite. How much time do you spend online when you could be reading Proust?
And how has the free-for-all worked for us? Nothing bad has happened. There were a few hairy moments when they were younger (ever tried Googling Dick and Dom?), but they gulp down books (made of actual paper), make use of the great outdoors within reason, can take or leave gaming and have made lots of friends – some of them in far-flung places and many of whom they've got to know in real life.
My experience is that, even when given free rein, there's a limit to children's tolerance of screen time and, as they gain more independence, they'll want to get out and about with friends more. Then you'll have a whole new set of things to worry about.
Your problem shared
Have a dilemma? Email your predicament no matter how big or small, to Louisa at firstname.lastname@example.org
elephant appealThe first 23 lots in our charity auction have now gone. But there are 22 more still up for grabs
musicPolice chief rejects rappers' claims that his work is as dangerous as law enforcement or military service
comedy'Fresh Meat' star sees off stiff competition from Alan Carr, David Mitchell, Graham Norton, Lee Mack and Sarah Millican to win top prize
healthJames Bond's alcohol consumption puts him at 'high risk' of cirrhosis, tremors... and impotence
Life & Style blogs
The 50 Best Christmas Gifts for Women
Foodini: the £835 machine that 'prints' food in your kitchen
Physicists discover 'clearest evidence yet' that the Universe is a hologram
In pictures: Christmas in London through the ages
Pirate Bay sets sail for Ascension Island after SX domain name seized by authorities
- 1 French café starts charging extra to rude customers
- 2 Italian court annuls prison sentence for elderly paedophile after 11-year-old victim tells investigators in Catanzaro that she loves him
- 3 Australia incest case: Deformed children found in remote farming community after generations of inbreeding
- 4 Physicists discover 'clearest evidence yet' that the Universe is a hologram
- 5 Fox News presenter tells viewers it is a 'fact' that both Jesus and Santa Claus are white
- < Previous
- Next >
iJobs Gadgets & Tech
£350 - £400 per day: PCR Recruitment Limited: My client is a globally recognis...
£55000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits: Harrington Starr: Senior C# ASP.NET Deve...
Negotiable: Harrington Starr: QA Automation Tester FX Trading Platform(Ruby, ...
£25000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits : Harrington Starr: VB.NET SQL Developer/...