If parenting comes to screen or scream, I'm with Micheal Gove

It was Michael Gove, a man who could stop hiccups with a fleeting trademark startled stare, who famously said that Brits were fed up with experts.

Monday, 29th April 2019, 7:50 am
Updated Monday, 29th April 2019, 8:13 am
WHO recommends children under the age of two have no "sedentary screen time," including video games or TV exposure, and those ages 2 to 4 have no more than one hour each day.

It was this killer line which stuck in the minds of millions before they voted in the Brexit referendum nearly three years ago. The nation had been fed a seemingly endless stream of statements about what leaving the European Union would mean and much of it was counter to the arguments of the Leave lobby, of which Mr Gove was a key member.

We have since learned that much of what was spouted by both sides during that tediously vitriolic campaign was more Walt Disney than Westminster but does this prove that we should disregard the advice of experts for evermore?

It hasn’t deterred Mr Gove who, in his position of Environment Secretary, leads a Government department full of civil servants and experts who hand out advice and make recommendations on an almost daily basis.

But I do find myself in the uncomfortable position of agreeing with him when it comes to experts as there are just so many of these people out there today, desperate to have their advice taken as gospel by the masses.

Quite frankly, all this advice, much of it unwanted, gives me a headache, especially when it comes to those who would tell me how I should bring up my children. When it comes to their kids, most parents will sit up and listen to those who will tell them what is healthy and what isn’t when it comes to young minds, particularly when screens are involved.

There cannot be any self respecting parent who hasn’t asked themselves whether it is wise to let Junior watch six consecutive episodes of Peppa Pig while they complete vital jobs such as dinner or the crossword.

Now the World Health Organisation has stepped in, telling parents everywhere that children under the age of two should not have any screen time at all. This is contrary to other advice that has been issued in recent years, meaning that us parents are now officially flummoxed, ground down by conflicting information, issued by very clever people with letters after their name and everything.

It doesn’t help that this latest guidance came from the World Health Organisation, a body that, even if you haven’t heard of it before, sounds important. But I would question whether anybody within the WHO, particularly those responsible for this latest report have ever met a child, never mind be parents themselves, because keeping children, of any age, away from a screen is impossible.

You would get more luck trying to stop dogs taking an interest in each others backsides than you would trying to deprive a little person of any screen time whatsoever. This is because screens are shiny, fun and interesting and, if used properly can be educational.

Yes, tearing a child away from a screen is never easy but, in my experience, even little ones can benefit from some virtual interaction - as long as it isn’t at the expense of them receiving a parent’s undivided attention at bedtime.

We know ourselves what is good for our kids and while expert advice is always a good reference point, there are some occasions when we don’t need to rely upon experts.

Even if that does mean me agreeing with Michael Gove.