'Is this how we parent now?' - Concern over tablets becoming 'the norm' for children

A new CyberSafeKids survey found 50% of children said they 'spend too much time online'
Jack Quann
Jack Quann

18.37 7 Feb 2023

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'Is this how we parent now?' -...

'Is this how we parent now?' - Concern over tablets becoming 'the norm' for children

Jack Quann
Jack Quann

18.37 7 Feb 2023

Share this article

One mother and broadcaster has said she is concerned that taking out a tablet is becoming 'normalised' for parents.

Rebecca Horan was speaking as a new CyberSafeKids survey, of over 1,600 eight to 12-year-olds, found 50% of children said they 'spend too much time online'.

She told The Hard Shoulder this is happening all the time.


"Restaurants in general at the moment, you pass by a café - perhaps even in a playground," she said.

"Anywhere there's any kind of setting where there's parents with their children or even minders.

"It's just an observation - I have two very small kinds, so you don't want to come across as the judgey outsider.

"I'm sure one day I will also need a hand or a distraction like so many.

"I feel like it's just become commonplace, and it seems just to be very normal - and that's probably the thing that I'm most concerned about.

"It's now something that's just a given when people sit down to perhaps have a family meal on a Friday, like we would, in a restaurant or a café you see just immediately the iPads pop up on the table.

"They're kind of propped up and they're good to go."

Boy using tablet with headphones ignores his mom. Boy using tablet with headphones ignores his mom. Picture by: Andrii Zorii / Alamy Stock Photo

Rebecca said the devices are being relied on for everything.

"So as opposed to it being an emergency situation, or perhaps something's happened... this seems to be just a given," she said.

"That would be a massive concern for me - I've got a one-year-old and a five-year-old.

"Is this just how we parent now? I don't know".

'Very little balance'

Rebecca said she knows this is necessary sometimes.

"I'm really adverse to doing it and I have had to do it on long car journeys," she said.

"Obviously planes, when you're taking long trips, you would have films downloaded for them or particular cartoons.

"But to set yourself up... to sit and have a meal and have that downtime with your family, and it to be a given, it also makes me really concerned about the state of play where we're at as parents.

"Mostly both partners are working within a home, so we're all feeling a little bit more stretched.

"There's the dual incomes, there's the busyness that comes with that, and very little balance.

Young girls using an iPad tablet. Picture by: Steve McDonough / Alamy Stock Photo

"I wonder is it because we're also finding [that when] we get to sit down and we would really just rather have some peace to eat?

"That becomes the easiest way, it's just the easiest tool for distraction.

"I understand all of these things, but it is a concern. It seems to be just normalised, but where do we stop?

"It is this expectation of having a phone at a certain age, expectation of looking at the internet.

"Then you look at the stats surrounding kids accessing porn, or even seeing their first porn at nine or 10, and not understanding this.

"Then you see today, they feel they're on phones/internet too much - so who's responsible for this?".

'Like TV was in the past'

Rebecca said we need to look at why we've moved to replace the TV with the tablet.

"I suppose the phone, like TV was in the past, has become the given," she said.

"I really find something very distressing and depressing about going into a restaurant to have a meal and... is this what's in store for the future?

"This is not out of judgement; it's what has happened that we have to immediately set up the iPads?"

She said the same can be seen with older people on dates.

"It's the same when I go out to restaurants and I see partners or friends on phones the whole time.

"I'm great for my social media, but maybe in the aftermath: do it when you've gotten home," she added.

'They haven't even tasted the food'

Restaurant owner Anthony Gray said he sees this all the time.

"If you do go out for a meal, you want to enjoy it," he said.

"You want to have that conversation; I think the art of the conversation is slowly, absolutely dying.

"I don't think the solution is straight away to take out the phones.

"We've people come into the restaurant, before they even sit down they're taking snaps, they're tagging, they're posting it on Instagram.

"They haven't even tasted the food that we've prepared.

"Just sit down, have the conversation, have a chat and enjoy the surroundings of the restaurant," he added.

Listen back here:

Main image: Young brothers using a tablet PC in a café. Picture by: Arkady Chubykin / Alamy Stock Photo

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