Kids on iPads in the park and at softplay?! Are we really so addicted to screens that children can’t even play in places designed to be played in?

Family life Uncategorized

I couldn’t help but stare at the two children. They were in a wonderful park with a huge climbing frame, several slides, monkey bars, a tunnel to crawl their way through, not to mention the woods and fields surrounding it. Little E and Little O played in the park for an hour and even then it was difficult to tear them away when it was time to go home.

Yet rather than playing, these two children were sat on a climbing frame watching an iPad. An actual Apple iPad. One that costs a few hundred pounds and that I’ve never been able to afford. I’m not ‘anti-screen’ at all. I wouldn’t have a career without it, for a start! Technology is a big part of all of our lives and I know there are a lot of educational apps that help children learn to read, write, count or speak foreign languages (although we don’t really use them), not to mention giving children the chance to Skype and FaceTime with family who don’t live locally (something we have found brilliant). But there’s a time and a place for it, and a sunny day, in a busy play park is certainly not it. They weren’t being especially careful with the iPad, either. More than once, my heart leapt when the iPad got dropped, or other children climbing past very nearly knocked it out of its owners’ hands.

I was trying not to judge too much as you never quite know what’s going on in someone else’s life. Perhaps the children had some kind of special needs. It didn’t seem that way, although I accept it’s not always obvious. Perhaps it was a reward for good behaviour. Perhaps the parents in question were fed up of being asked and after a thousand times of saying no, gave in and said yes. Or perhaps they were at the end of their fuse with their children tantrumming and fighting with each other, and desperately needed five minutes of peace and quiet. We’ve all been there.

Yet as much as I tried to find something that would justify it, I just can’t see any reason why two children should be sat on a climbing frame, watching cartoons for at least half an hour. Why, on a beautiful sunny day – when we know opportunities to get outside like this can be a rarity – would you feel the need to give your children a screen? We’re always being told children these days have too much screen time and don’t know how to do things like climb trees or play conkers. Why would you want to miss an opportunity for them to run around and get some fresh air and exercise? Why would you instead prefer to put more strain on their eyes and cause more damage to their growing bodies as they sit hunched up over a screen? Why would you make the effort to go to the park and then give your children a screen when you get there? Even if there was ever an excuse to let them watch an iPad at the park, why would you let them sit on the actual climbing frame and not on the bench at the side? Why should other parents have to tell their own children to watch where they are playing so they don’t damage the iPad? I felt ridiculous giving that warning to my children.

I see it at soft play centres too. Children watching TV shows on their parents’ phones, instead of playing, climbing and sliding. Not on the sidelines, but in the middle of the activities. And not just for five minutes to calm them down, but for half an hour or more. I see it week after week at the side of the swimming pool where my children have their lessons. While one child is in the pool, the parent is on their smart phone and a sibling is on a tablet, both in silence, not even looking at each other. How about showing the child in the pool that you and their sibling are supporting them by watching them, or spending half an hour of quality one-to-one time with the other child, talking or reading a book? I see it in restaurants, cafés and coffee shops too. The moment a family sits down, the children – often toddlers and preschoolers – are handed a tablet or smart phone. I know it can be challenging keeping a little one occupied when the food takes forever to come, and it is horrible when you feel the other diners are judging your family if your children aren’t being as well-behaved as you might like. But why not try a conversation or a colouring book first? They might surprise you. I feel the same about long car journeys too, preferring traditional car games and conversation to seeing my children spaced out in front of a screen.

And as for those children in the park? I desperately wanted their parents to tell them they’d had enough screen time (it had been at least half an hour) and that it was time to play. I wanted their parents to tell them if they’re done with regular playing, that climbing frames make great pirate ships or fairy castles or a rocket heading to space or a shop or a restaurant. I wanted their parents to tell them there were fields to run around in, bugs to hunt for, hills to roll down.

I don’t think that was ever going to happen though, because the parents were engrossed in their smart phones too.

What do you think? Is the park ever the place for an iPad? Is our obsession with smartphones and tablets affecting our ability to enjoy life? Do let me know in the comments below, by tweeting @cardiffmummy or on the Cardiff Mummy Says Facebook page

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19 Comments to Kids on iPads in the park and at softplay?! Are we really so addicted to screens that children can’t even play in places designed to be played in?

  1. I couldn’t agree more with what you’ve said here. There is a time and place for ipads etc and a climbing frame is not it! How different is the world today when instead of saying ‘careful’ or ‘watch your step’ we are saying ‘mind that child’s ipad’! X

  2. I completely agree with you. There are far too many children obsessed with technology and ignoring the world around them. It’s a great invention, but it needs to be used sparingly not an all the time activity.

  3. StephsTwoGirls

    I do totally agree that on the climbing frame is ridiculous… but I am one of those parents who lets my autistic child use an ipad in certain places when we are out, such as restaurants, or soft play, because she simply doesn’t have the ability to focus her attention on much else for very long, and we wouldn’t be able to stay long enough for my eldest to have a good time. And yes, I still always feel guilty about it, but know that the alternative is staying in a lot more. But I do appreciate that is not what you are saying here, and that there are those who use them when it is not necessary…. 🙁

    • That’s a really interesting perspective about children with autism or other particular needs. I think if it means you as a family can stay longer, then that’s perfectly understandable. As you say though, that’s not the case the here. It makes me so sad. X

  4. Just today I saw a photo on facebook of a boy playing a bowling game on an ipad. Get this! In a bowling alley!!!!!
    I completely agree with you about the park. That is no place for tablets, why bother being there in the first place if your going to have you nose stuck in a screen? Also people pay a fortune to get into softplay!
    I have to admit when the older four were little, say all under 8, we did use a DVD player (no such thing as an ipad lol) in the car on very long journeys. We have a couple who used get very travel sick and concentrating on something else helped a lot!
    As far as eating out is concerned, we managed to keep four under five entertained well enough before smartphones/tablets even existed and on the rare occasion O has got hold of a phone? Well, he screams bloody murder when you try to take it off him to eat, so it’s easier not to give it in the first place lol. #MMWBH

    • Wow! That is crazy about the boy at the bowling alley! Why on earth would they do that?! Makes me so sad.
      Yep, good point that generations of families have entertained children at restaurants without the aid of a digital screen! It can be done! X

  5. I dont think an iPad should be in the hands of a child in a soft play area/play park, ever. Parks are meant to be a place for play, imagination and adventure. Not to be sat watching something! Madness. I love getting my kids away from the screens as it is something I make sure happens as they only ever get limited screen time anyway….but never at a park. Great post hun, thanks so much for linking up with #MMWBH xx

    • I agree – absolutely a place for imagination and fun. Especially when the sun is shining! No excuse for having a screen in a park! I loved the linky – looking forward to taking part in some more. X

    • Wow, that story is so depressing!! I love my iPhone too but I try my hardest to limit my use when my children are around. It is difficult though when messages keep popping up! x

  6. Michelle Murray

    I have to hide my iPad at the moment from my 18 month old monkey who is absolutely addicted. I know it’s just his curious age but it does worry me that we will all turn in to screen staring zombies. I can’t believe the kids had iPads in the park? What was the point of taking them there to sit on an iPad..? Crazy.

    • I know!! I just can’t understand it at all!
      We do live in a digital age, and it can be great at times, but all in moderation and definitely not at the park! Xx

  7. My eldest loves her dad’s iPad but is only allowed to have it occasionally and the same goes for my phone. it’s great for keeping her occupied somewhere like the doctor’s surgery waiting room but I agree, the park is somewhere for children to run around, play and use their imaginations. The climbing frame is a bit of a daft place anyway to sit with it – even if there is a good reason why they were watching cartoons on the iPad, as you say, why not sit on a bench with it instead?

  8. My eldest loves her dad’s iPad but is only allowed to have it occasionally and the same goes for my phone. it’s great for keeping her occupied somewhere like the doctor’s surgery waiting room but I agree, the park is somewhere for children to run around, play and use their imaginations. The climbing frame is a bit of a daft place anyway to sit with it – even if there is a good reason why they were watching cartoons on the iPad, as you say, why not sit on a bench with it instead?

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