Toby Young Toby Young

Can I bear to sack the digital babysitter?

Another parent banned screens at half term... we tried it once and there was talk of divorce

I was astonished to discover in conversation with another dad last week that he and his wife intended to introduce a screen ban over half term. Not limiting their children to something reasonable like two hours a day. But a blanket ban. How on earth will they cope — and by ‘they’ I mean him and his wife, not their two kids? It’s not as if they’re going on a family cycling holiday on the Dalmatian Coast. No, they’ll be spending this week at home in Acton. The poor buggers will be forced to play Monopoly Empire from first thing in the morning till last thing at night.

When I hear talk of screen bans, it makes me want to set up a National Association for the Prevention of Cruelty to Adults. Maybe it’s worse if you’ve got four kids. We tried it once and within 48 hours Caroline was muttering darkly about filing for divorce. Life without the electronic babysitter — or should that be digital heroin? — was unbearable. Suddenly, our children were lively and inquisitive, asking all sorts of questions about the world around them. For the first time in years, they wanted to engage in conversation. They reminded me of the catatonic patients in Awakenings after Robin Williams has given them a dose of L-dopa. We felt suicidal.

Admittedly, when I bother to find out what my children are actually watching on their phones and tablets, I do sometimes have second thoughts.

Let’s start with Charlie, my youngest. He divides his time between playing Fifa 17 and watching YouTube videos of other people playing Fifa 17. We’re talking eight hours a day during half term, interrupted only by trips to the park to play Fifa 17 in real life, which involves dribbling the ball round his dad and burying it in the back of the net.

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