As one of four boys growing up in western Sydney, we did all the normal activities four boys do after school and on weekends. We were ecstatic when our dad brought home a used Atari 2600. Naturally we thought it was awesome, plugging in leads, tuning your UHF or VHF frequency (manually of course) on the Thorn Cathode Ray Tube tv with a pull out on off switch, that somehow doubled as a volume switch when it was rotated. After the manual tune and setup, selecting the channel , powering up, selecting your game cartridge (the size of a cigarette packet), choosing your weapon of play being paddles or joystick (connected via long leads that were often tangled), which had their own setup issues you finally arrive at the moment of play. And that was a rather pixelated blob, poor sound quality experience that was was inadvertently interrupted by demands to help get the table set for dinner.

Those families that later progressed to the whiz bang state of the art Commodore 64, were rolling in it. I recall going to my school mates place to play one of his new games, and he placed a cassette in to a cassette player, then hit ‘load game’ and then said come on, lets go out and play whilst this loads! If we had remembered, 15 or 20 minutes later we would come back inside to see if the load worked (quite often it didn’t).

Imagine the kids nowdays dealing with this level of mechanical agricultural clunkiness. If our wifi loses connectivity at home, or dare we ask a child to finish in 10 minutes, it is literally world war three. Tantrums galore, it is akin to refusing an addict their chosen choice of abuse. With four children, they all seem to know who has had ‘screen time’ and for how long, down to the minute! ‘He had 15 minutes more’ ‘ No I didn’t, that was Archie’ ‘No I didn’t Lucinda had the Ipod, I had the Ipad, then it went flat, so I asked Aston if I could use the old Ipad’ ‘No he didn’t ask me, as Stella was on the old Ipad, I was on YouTube upstairs’. ‘Well who was on YouTube downstairs?’……..Mr Nobody of course, my fifth child. Honestly, the stress level in a household can very quickly rise. Maybe it is an addiction after all?

Strict monitoring of the use of these devices seems to be the only way forward. Apps like Our Pact or Kidslox assist in controlling a childs use of ‘I’ things, and are making it easier for parents to control screen time. The ability to be strong as a parent and have screen free blocks each month should be encouraged. We recently had a family holiday down the south coast, and we went ‘device and screen free for 7 days. It was the best holiday I had had in years, with a genuine sense of reconnection, and most definitely a level of stress had been removed.

Sensible parenting, having the resilience to wear the kids down before they wear you down, and drip feeding access to screens and devices are key. We want them involved in the developing word, and we want them to not be the ‘odd one out’, but there is something to be said for old fashion fun with your kids. Before you know it, they will be catching a train with their mates and the shutters are going up.

Author: Matthew Herrett
Matthew is a partner at Link Property Services and operates out of Link’s Silverwater and Alexandria offices.