Why I think the internet has made me a better mum.

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I could tell the woman was going to be a talker.

As a fairly chatty person myself I normally welcome conversation but at just gone 10am I’d already had quite a stressful morning.

“Lovely to see you actually paying attention to your child,” she said, as she drew level with us in the otherwise empty street.

Erm… I was prepared to respond to “lovely day” or even a simple “hello” but this opener left me speechless.

“So often now all you see is parents looking down at their phones while their children are just left to it,” she commented, nodding to Freya held in my arms.

I felt the sting even though her waspish tail wasn’t aimed at me.

Like many parents, I suspect, I do worry that I check my email too much. Or scroll through Twitter one too many times in the day. That I’m not “present” enough even though, if I ever stop and look back at our days, I know I am living more “in the moment” with Freya than not.

Had the woman walked by five minutes earlier that day she would have seen me glancing at my phone. Had she been in my house an hour before (admittedly that would have been weird) she would no doubt have grimaced at me practically plugged into my iPad.

After learning the trains bringing my childcare were delayed by AN HOUR, leaving me in a big old mess on a work day, I was searching for a Plan B.

Freya was being looked after by the Octonauts. Not ideal but necessary (and even though she was perfectly happy, I still felt guilty about it because we’re constantly given the message that “screen time” will rot their brains).

“How old is she?” The lady smiled at Freya, who was giving a running commentary on the activities of the diggers at a building site while we waited for Mark to come out of work and swap for an hour while I did an interview.

“She’ll be three in August.”

“Well you can tell you spend a lot of time with her and she’s not just plonked in front of the television or, even worse, those iPad things.”

While I am not generally combative with strangers in the street something in her judgemental tone rubbed against my already frazzled nerves.

“I do spend time with her but actually she also does both of those things and I don’t think she’s any worse off for it. In fact, it’s because of the iPad that she is currently obsessed with Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (she loves Puck). I certainly wouldn’t have thought to introduce her to it at two but thanks to the Cbeebies app she’s already enjoying it,” I said, warming to the subject now.

“Plus I think the internet has actually helped me to be a better mum.”

I said it without much thought but as I briefly explained the support I’d received from parents I met online when she was tiny and suffering with reflux or how rainy days are never dull thanks to the many activities I’ve found online which I’m not creative enough to think up myself, I knew I believed it.

I didn’t even get to blogging, Pinterest or the joy of Instagram, which inspires me to keep more of a pictorial record of her childhood (and any pretty flowers I happen to see).

The woman, perhaps sensing that I wasn’t going to jump on her band wagon, said: “Well I suppose it’s all about balance.”

Finally, something we agreed on.

Of course the internet is not all good and I know it’s easy to get sidetracked by social media and yes, maybe I should turn off my phone more, but for us it has largely been a positive. I certainly feel like I’m a better, even more engaged, mum because of the things I have learned online.

And, while the internet wasn’t part of my childhood, it is part of hers – and it will definitely be part of her future so why not give her an early start?

What do you think? Are we too attached to our phones, tablets and computers? Should toddlers have “screen time”?

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14 thoughts on “Why I think the internet has made me a better mum.

  1. Good for you! We get so much criticism for being obsessed with our gadgets. I did prefer life without them but they are here to stay. Also, as well as being able to do shopping quickly or as you say look something up, it has helped me not feel so isolated. Parenting today is lonely and I work for myself too. Without social media I wouldn’t interact with many people.

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    1. I honestly don’t know where I’d be without the online support (I didn’t get from health professionals) in Freya’s early days. They really saved me. I’m glad it’s helped you not to feel so isolated too. I hope you and bump are ok in the heat.

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  2. At times I’ve felt guilt for letting our youngest son play games on the computer at three years old. Back then, the Internet had just come out and the newness was exciting with opportunities we didn’t have before. I feel that it didn’t hurt him, in fact he is graduating in the top of his class in June. Anything in moderation, that’s what they say.

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    1. That’s good to hear. I agree, it would be different if I just ignored her all day but I really don’t think a bit of tele or iPad time is a bad thing overall. I’m pretty sure my mum didn’t spend all day entertaining me!

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  3. Fair play Tara. And you’re right, we all feel guilty for looking at our phones just that minute too long but like you, it kept me sane in the early days during the week while BattleDad was away working. Parenting is hard and, for example, the littlest of rashes/bumps/scrapes can be compared to pictures online to ease a worrying parents mind. Likewise not feeding or other strange baby goings-on can be Googled and hopefully answered. If nothing else it helps us to realise we’re not alone and someone has either gone through it or is going through it with us.
    The Internet is part and parcel of everyday lives now and we have to accept it. I try to limit Alex’s screen time and while he rarely uses a tablet at home it’s a life saver on planes and Thomas the Tank engine goes on every night after nursery for half an hour. As long as there’s a balance between screen time and parent time I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it!

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    1. I really think they need some downtime just to relax a bit after a hectic day. You’re right, balance is the key, I think. I hope you’ve had a lovely holiday (after the less than ideal start). You’re Instagram pics have made me very jealous 🙂

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      1. Thanks Tara! It’s improved by mornings spent on the beach. Alex loves it surprisingly as he hated the sand last year. We’re already thinking about next year! Xx

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      1. We had no screens until the boys were two (iPad and smartphones weren’t invented until they were at Junior school) and I don’t think that it made the slightest bit of difference

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  4. My 15 year old son is currently fascinated by Black American History because of it’s part in the music of Kendrick Lamar, and he’s taught me so much because of on line research he’s done. In fact, his love of that music is via the internet too. He has a similar interest in Hillsborough and the way the death of the 96 highlighted corruption in the establishment. Without the internet, I guess he could have gone to the library, but would he have? And would there have been the range of information and opinions for him to sift through and use to form his own views? Maybe an older person can still, just about, live without screens having a direct impact (although every shop they go into, every call to a company, every GP or hospital visit will be managed via screens), but I don’t think that’s true of even my generation, let alone my children’s. It’s the primary vehicle for their development……cultural, linguistic, educational, practical, social.

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    1. Exactly! I so often look things up (and learn) from the internet when I know I would never have the time to visit a library (if I even remembered after a minute what it was I was pondering).

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  5. I worship the Internet. I love being online and constantly have a gadget of some kind about my person. I definitely need to limit my own screen time, hopefully my children aren’t too neglected for it, my poor long suffering husband certainly is though. 🙊
    I really must try harder.

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