Irritated by her sons' screen obsession, this writer was horrified to discover that even the children's school had been invaded by small screens: the teacher had given out 30 games for her pupils to spend lesson time playing Ninetendogs.
Here, Ursula explains why she's so appalled:
'Get off the computer' is a cry that often rings around my house. I don't know if it is because I have only boys and a geek for a husband that they are all obsessed with screen time, or if it is typical of all modern children.
Either way show any of my sons, including the one-year-old twins, a shiny gadget and they are instantly mesmerised by its glowing screen.
If ever I lose my iPhone or the iPad goes missing, I know I just need to look into the nearest pair of grubby little hands to locate it. It drives my husband to distraction that his pristine screens are constantly smeared with tiny fingerprints, but the lure of the colourful apps and games is just too strong for them to resist.
Perhaps I am a little Luddite in my thinking, but while I don't mind the boys spending a little time on the computer as a leisure activity, when I found out that that my eldest son's teacher was handing out Nintendo DSi consoles as a learning aid, I was horrified.
It undermines all my brave attempts to get them off the computer and into doing something a bit more educational like reading a book or doing their homework, while actively condoning spending hours staring glassily at an LCD display.
I do understand that children need to learn how to use computers. But there is a world of difference between understanding how to type up an essay in Word or research a project on the internet, and spending lesson time playing Nintendogs.
My seven-year-old's teacher defended the decision to bring handheld games consoles into the classroom by claiming that they help to teach children the value of money. What, I wonder, is wrong with teaching pupils the value of money through the tried and tested medium of arithmetic?
The only thing using a DSi in class has taught my son about money is that he should pester me even harder to spend my hard earned cash on yet another gaming device for him. After all how can I deny him a DSi of his own, now that his teacher has shown him it's educational, rather than just another means to allow him to waste his life in front of a screen?
We were invited into his classroom to see how much our children had learned by playing with their Nintendogs. I wasn't impressed. I could see the appeal for the teacher as her 30 young charges were silently rapt by their electronic pooches, but my son was most interested in showing off the pink brush he had bought for his poodle and telling me how the dogs 'don't poo really, mummy'.
When I asked him what he had learned from his two weeks in charge of a virtual pet, he replied: "Nothing". Which is exactly what I would expect any child to learn from playing a computer game. This is the reason I am so keen for them to switch off and do something a bit less pointless at home. But I am fighting a losing battle if even the school considers pushing an onscreen pup around a path with a pointer a useful life lesson.
I just wonder what's next? Will my boys have to keep their homework to under 140 characters so they can tweet it to the teacher?
Do you agree this is screen time too far?
Or do you think it's fine to grab children's attention any way? Let us know
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