My first computer was a BBC 32K. My tiny i-phone probably contains 100 times more memory than this early home computer, but at the time it was the Ferrari of the home computer world.
We made a 5 hour trip from our home in Devon to London in order to pick up this top of the range piece of futuristic technology. It was around 1984 and the hype surrounding home computers was such that we had high expectations of our new piece of space age trickery. Programs such as ‘Tomorrow’s World’ gave me ideas far above the computers or my station. Excited kids pondered the infinite possibilities on the journey up to London, anticipating the amazing things we’d soon be able to achieve.
One of the reasons my father brought the computer was because of a computer mad teacher who’d convinced him that having one (and it had to be a BBC) would put me at a great advantage. I’d soon be well ahead of my peers, top of the class, straight A student, changing the world, writing complicated, educational computer programs.
Of course once home the only thing the computer was ever used for was to play games. In went a bulky cassette and after several attempts (with the external cassette player making a horrible screeching sound), frogger would be loaded.
Thirty years on and we’re now well into the age of the internet. It really has taken us into the future. Facebook, Twitter, youtube, Google etc have changed the way we think, learn and communicate. Perhaps they are changing our very nature. Our children can communicate with others thousands of miles across the world, make music, art and find out just about any fact they wish. No generation has had access to so much so quickly
Computers or rather the internet is an amazing thing. What we now take for granted would in the past be thought of as miraculous, technological acts.
But miracles bring responsibility.
Our young children are the internet generation, for them it’s a normal part of life-like going to school or using the telephone. We want to encourage them to be internet savvy without being naive to new age issues.
Like many other parents of toddlers, we often wonder if we let our four-year old daughter Rose on the internet too much, was she too young when she started using it and are the websites she uses of benefit? I closely monitor what she consumes, but there are definite concerns.
Even at this young age the internet’s pull is strong. When she’s online, the addictive nature of it is plain to see. As she plays the beeping, flashing, noisy games she is zombified, zoned out in a personal, ‘Tron’ like computer world, oblivious to the real one around her. It’s quite scary and slightly concerning. Left to her own devices she’d happily be online all day Fortunately some games are educational and she’s certainly learnt off them (even learning a few spanish phrases from Dora the explorer on NickJr).
On weekend mornings she’ll often jump into our bed at some un godly hour, not wanting to wake us up (she’s a quick learner), grab my i-phone and watch something on YouTube or play one of the apps.
The increase usage of the internet and touch screen devices by toddlers is so new that we don’t really know yet the benefits or risks that they’re being exposed to. In some ways we’re holding our toddlers hands whilst we walk through the desert with sand in our eyes.
As it would now be impossible to ban (and I wouldn’t want to anyway), we limit her usage and monitor what sites she goes on. I also think that taking an interest in her online world can only be a good thing. And simply use the ying and yang vibe, a bit of internet, tv, books, outdoor pursuits, mix em round a bit and hopefully you’ll have a healthy, happy, toddler.
Some scientists have said that large amounts of internet exposure will alter the way that a child thinks. When this is applied to a toddler it’s surely magnified due to their smaller developing mind. It’s a major concern that our toddlers are like guinea pigs in the middle of a new experiment.
If you type in toddlers and internet into Google there’s literally nothing to tell us concern parents the effects of internet usage on our little angels. As I write this I’ve just been told that it’s internet safety day a brilliant thing, please check out their site, it’s full of useful tips for concerned parents.
To make life even more exciting for parents of toddlers we’ve got the giant that is social media to look forward to in the near future, but that’s a whole new chapter to be tackled at a later date.