You wouldn't give a baby neat gin, so why give them an iPad?
PUBLISHED: 18:08 03 July 2019 | UPDATED: 18:08 03 July 2019
Is it wrong to give very young children an iPad? Rachel Moore says it is. It should be banned
My younger son turned 20 on Monday.
To wave goodbye to his teens, with his size 11s firmly in AdultWorld, he granted me the rare privilege of a day's audience over a few Peronis and the traditional birthday pizza.
Separated by 300 miles and the university year, I'd forgotten how interesting, and interested, he was. He's first on the list for anyone's quiz teams for his knack of sucking up knowledge and retaining it.
"I'm so glad I was young before the digital age," he said. But nearly all his information comes from the internet. There would be no Ted talks without it.
"It's fine when you know how to use it but I feel sorry for children today because they never have to think about anything. It's just there. They just Google and copy it. It's mind-deadening for them."
He's thinking about teaching after his languages degree and had been thinking about small children's learning.
"It's only going to get worse."
The most depressing sight is a small child with an iPad. Beaten only by the family tableau of parents gawping at their phones while their child stares at another screen.
In cafés and restaurants everywhere, families sit in silence in their own separate worlds. At home, children are lost in games on equipment acquired to buy silence from children who need to be learning how to communicate with real people, not a screen.
Disturbingly, one in four under-twos and more than a third of three to five-year-olds have their own tablets or iPads, using apps and websites daily - with the average pre-school child, including under-twos, spending more than an hour a day online, rising to two hours or more for a third of five to six-year-olds.
I feel sick to read that special iPad holders are on sale to fit on baby high chairs, car seats and pushchairs, with dribble-proof covers.
It's no surprise that young children in the UK are more likely to own a tablet than those in any other EU country. Obvs.
We do zombie state like no other nation. We're happy with goggling mutes whose idea of conversation is nodding like back-seat dogs at a screen.
Who cares about lack of eye contact or proper interaction, as long as they're quiet and no trouble?
When they're engrossed in games they're not asking questions or being demanding. Talk about regressing to children being seen and not heard. The digital age is replacing the Victorian one of silencing the small ones.
In the restaurant, my son and I chatted phone-free for a couple of hours.
Not that it was always so easy. A phone ban at the table was fiercely fought against by both sons in their teens. Now, they admit we were right and were acting in their long-term interests. Not that they could see it at the time.
Being able to make conversation is such a valuable life skill that has to be nurtured at home.
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It's like making phone calls. So many young people have had a phone since primary school but never use it to speak to anyone, and are too awkward once they become young adults.
I always forced my children to make phone calls (despite all the shouting and kicking off against it). They had to make their own doctor's appointments too.
Bringing up stunted young adults isn't something any parent can be proud of.
On his birthday, I listened to my son chat at length to his brother, his father and to his 91-year-old grandmother, twice, then call the doctors to organise vaccination appointments for his year abroad.
Well worth a second Aperol Spritz, in celebration not smugness. Not to be needed anymore is a moment to mark.
Fobbing off children with distractions isn't a crime. Mine spent many a happy hour in front of Thomas the Tank Engine and the Teletubbies.
And the temptation to hand toddlers tablets and phones for a few minutes' peace cannot be underestimated. To placate and silence them.
But to silence a babbling toddler with a screen is like tying a gag on them and could seriously stunt their development for life.
iPads aren't for babies. Pre-verbal children should be protected from exposure to screens
Nothing is better for their development than eye contact and chatting between a baby and parent - or nursery worker, grandparent, sibling or nanny.
Watch a baby's eyes follow your mouth, mimicking making shapes and sounds, interacting not gawping.
No child under two should have access to a screen. If you can keep them away until they're five, even better. Think of screens as toxic and poison for babies.
The World Health Organisation wants to ban all children under the age of two from screens.
We might live in a digital age, but we live in an age where alcohol is the norm and we wouldn't give a baby a neat gin.
I've lost count of the number of issues I've had when people have asked me my title. Miss, Mrs or Ms?
My name is Rachel - I don't need a label.
Wimbledon has finally dropped the umpires' Miss or Mrs references to be in line with the men.
Now the pay and prizes need to be equal.