Relax, our children won’t be harmed by staring at screens

Steve Downes is not especially worried that gaming and computers will have a dire effect on today's

Steve Downes is not especially worried that gaming and computers will have a dire effect on today's young generation. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2015

I sometimes wonder how anybody got through childhood to become a balanced, productive adult.

I am only really one of those things, so I can't use myself as a case study.

But around me every day, I see plenty of examples of people who have not just survived, but thrived.

That is despite the thrusting pelvis of Elvis, the provocative hips and lips of Mick Jagger and the sneering of the Sex Pistols.

For my generation, survival came despite the confusing gender-bender looks of Boy George, whose first appearance on Top of the Pops caused much macho bristling among dads – but nowadays, thankfully, wouldn't raise an eyebrow.

We also endured the threat of Relax, by Frankie Goes to Hollywood, whose explicit lyrics made it the pet hate of parents – and a surreptitious 'must listen' for us children of the 80s.

And, miraculously, generations have not been too badly scarred by watching Noel Edmonds down the decades.

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Meanwhile, try as I might, I have yet to find a single person with square eyes – which is disappointing, because it shows that our parents and grandparents were telling fibs about what TV screens would do to us.

I had some sleep deprivation because of Jetpac on my Sinclair ZX Spectrum 48K. But I caught up in my teens.

When I picked up a stick, pointed it at a friend and pretended to shoot him, it didn't turn me into a gun-toting killer.

The same goes for the current generation who play Call of Duty – however foul it and other violent games are.

It's a laboured point, but every generation of parents has found a focus for their fears about their children. Ug the Caveman's mum probably thought he was unhealthily obsessed with cave painting.

But there is no evidence that he became a troubled artist who starved to death because he couldn't catch enough rhinos to feed his family.

The current focus for arguments between parents and their children is the time that they spend looking at screens – including TVs, games consoles, tablets and mobile devices.

As a dad, it bothers me. But it doesn't really worry me.

Despite the hysterical fears of over-protective parents who see danger everywhere (you know, the sort of parents who regularly go in to see their child's headteacher about little Araminta's welfare, and study Ofsted reports as if they are sacred texts, rather than the crude snapshots that they really are), they won't be unduly harmed.

They won't go blind, or evolve thumbs the size of a marrow. They won't become permanently hunched – nor will they be unable to socialise.

They are socialising in a different way, via their tablets and Xboxes.

And that is the heart of the issue – we don't really like change. It unsettles us, and we often see it as a threat, rather than refreshing progress.

So we rail against, just as our parents did, and their parents did.

And just as our children will when they become parents.