Ditch the tech when heading to beach
I trip over the topic of technology quite often, because it’s crept into every corner of our world and will not be ignored — but there comes a time when every mother must stand and shout: switch it off!
This was how I felt several years ago, when a friend, Nina, showed me an advert that she knew I’d find offensive.
It was a full-page advert by a well-known retailer — a colour photo advertising cheap hooded towels (not sure what we did as kids, but these days, you’re dead boring on the beach without one).
The product and the general idea were fine, but whoever dreamed up the accessories in what should have been a Very Simple Idea had much to answer for.
There they were, three children in hooded towels, smiling, as advert kids do, with very white teeth and zero discontent.
The gist was that young ‘uns enjoy themselves on the beach and could do with a (very affordable, rainbow-coloured) hooded towel as part of the experience.
Except that this trio of shiny, tanned sprogs were sitting on the beach staring at a computer tablet.
What type of message, asked Nina, does an advert like that send to people like us who thought beaches were places to actively look at, touch, feel and perhaps eat (reluctantly and accidentally) sand and salt water?
Perhaps, if we’re lucky, spot a fish in a rock pool, or maybe learn the hard way about jellyfish stings?
While the advert was perfectly legal, generally inoffensive and a pretty cute final cut from a smart design agency, the fact is we’re sending messages all the time, if we’re in the media — and to me, the symbol of a child sitting on a beach, holding an iPad, is wrong.
And it’s not wrong just because I, a confirmed fuddy-duddy and old-fashioned get-your-hands-dirty kinda gal says it is; there’s scientific evidence proving we’re pushing our kids (with us not far behind) down the wrong road here.
The Telegraph reported (and this was several years ago) that a growing number of babies and young toddlers simply don’t have the motor skills needed to play with building blocks because of their “addiction” to tablet computers and smartphones.
This was the warning from members of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, who said children aged three or four can “swipe a screen” — but have little or no dexterity in their fingers as a result of so much screen-time.
Obviously, this is one report in one country and makes a great headline, as it’s dramatic.
But why not take the warning seriously?
Dare I say, we might want our children to build a sandcastle with their actual hands, rather than magically creating and dismantling a virtual one on a high-resolution screen.
For a start, you advertisers could push blocks, outdoor toys and big bouncy balls as a toy of first choice, rather than the latest gaming accessory or R5,000 minicomputer.
And for heaven’s sake, put buckets and spades back onto the beach.