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There has always been a lot of debate about the amount of time that children are allowed to spend in front of a screen. Whether it’s a computer or a TV, the effects are still being catalogued and researched and a recent survey has shown that children who spend too much time staring at the screen can suffer some side-effects.

Now, I’m all for teaching children all about the PC. In fact, I introduced my children from a very young age. I wanted them to be able to stand tall alongside technology and have control over a skill that’s essential for their future. BUT I have also been quite careful about how much time they’re actually allowed to play around on the computer.

The thing is, I am as guilty as anyone for using my computer as a bit of a nanny while I panic about something to do with work, or clean the house. Sometimes, especially when I’m tired or ill, I rely on it to step in and keep them occupied so I can just fall over in a heap.

However, this report has had me rethink quite a few of my habits. The University of Bristol study involved more than 1000 children about ten years old. They found that children who spend longer than two hours a day in front of a computer or TV are more likely to suffer from psychological difficulties.

This doesn’t mean that you’ve inadvertently damaged your child beyond repair because you’ve been allowing them more time than that. No. It doesn’t mean that we should stop teaching them how to use computers and to develop fantastic skills that they need for the future. Absolutely not.

What it does mean is that we need to be more careful about how we allocate the screen time so that it is all about benefits and not about side-effects. I am definitely not going to stop using technology to teach my child. I love products like the ASUS and Disney netbook that has been designed specifically for kids.

Called Netpal, it comes with an 8.9 inch screen and a kid-friendly interface. Thanks to the 16GB SSD, it is also robust enough to cope with a child’s natural tendency to drop/break/fiddle/destroy. In fact, Eee PCs have often been thought of as ideal tools for children.

Now I happen to have one of these for my children and it works a charm. I also only allow them to use the computer on sites like Cbeebies as all the activities actually teach them things and help support their schooling. But, thanks to this survey, I think that perhaps the ban of no TV during the week is about to be extended into no computing either.

Technology is here to stay so not teaching your children to become accustomed to it, and helping them to understand it, is not something I agree with. What I do think is that, like anything, moderation is key. What do you think? Do you think that this is something to worry about, or just another survey that will be contradicted in six months (or however many years’) time?

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