Can we Resist an On Demand Childhood?

I feel like I ought to start this post with a disclaimer. A disclaimer that goes: “I know that what I’m about to say in this post is going to make Mrs Lighty sound really, really…old.” But lately, I’ve been pondering how much more…on demand our children’s childhoods have become in comparison to ours.  Everything seems to be available at the touch of a button nowadays, and I’m not so sure I like it.

What do I mean by this? Well, children’s telly is a prime example of an on demand childhood. If you have some sort of digital subscription, you’re bound to have approximately 10+ children’s channels included. At any given time, I know that there are probably 4 channels which will have at least one programme between them that Baby Lighty will be happy to watch. And then on top of that, there’s also a channel on our subscription which is an on demand children’s service, whereby once you press that magical little red button, a whole plethora of children’s options appears, with several episodes to choose from under each series choice.

An on demand childhood?

And this is the bit where Mrs Lighty is going to sound super, super old: when did this happen?! When we were children, we had a couple of hours’ worth of children’s programmes a day. And that was it. If you didn’t like what was on one channel, you had one more channel to choose from, and that was all you got. And our parent’s generations had even less than that!

Then on top of this there are, of course, DVDs (yes I know we had videos. Yes I know I’m sounding older and older by the minute!), streaming and the beast that is YouTube. You may have noticed, but Mrs Lighty is not a vlogger. There’s a good reason for this; aside from the fact that no one wants to hear me waffling on, I have no clue how to use YouTube. At least, I didn’t before The Wiggles entered my life, that is. Up until that point, I don’t think I had ever been on YouTube. If I was looking for instructions on how to do something, I’d always opt for the written word rather than an instructional video (which brings us back full circle to why I’m a blogger and not a vlogger). And yet, now that we have a two and a half year old, I can operate YouTube at the touch of a button via the TV remote. Why? Because if Baby Lighty says “I want watch Wiggles on the telly!” there are times when I just can’t help but say, “which song?”

Aside from the fact that this possibly makes me a terrible mother for wanting five minutes’ sit down with a cuppa and a chance to scroll through my social meida, I’m just not sure that I’m comfortable with everything being so on demand. Don’t get me wrong, I am not adverse to a bit of CBeeBies and a bit of YouTube, clearly. When you’re tired, when you’re poorly, when they’re poorly, when you need that aforementioned scrolling-through-Instagram time, it can be a little tiny God send. But I guess it comes back to the whole ‘how much is too much screen time?’ argument, and more besides; the more because I’m just not sure that I like this whole ‘have what you want, when you want it’. The whole ‘on demand’ aspect of it. I mean, you can even skip the ads on YouTube!

Why? Well I guess because in life, you can’t always get what you want. And maybe it’s a little too deep to link being able to watch what you want on the telly with being able to get what you want in real life, but something about it all makes me a little uncomfortable. I’ve noticed that Baby Lighty has a very flippant attitude towards things getting broken, too. Maybe he thinks that his toys will just be replaced if they get broken, that they’re disposable and replaceable and available on demand like other aspects of modern childhood? And maybe it’s just because he’s only two and a half. But for Mr Lighty and I, who get so annoyed with ourselves if we break or lose something, it’s not easy to swallow.

Pretending to be a Wiggle…at least he’s interacting with his on demand viewing I guess!!

I know, I’m probably worrying too much. Like all of the other things I’m always worrying about. Because really, what can I do to stop this? I already limit screen time in the day, opting for the radio instead. We already go out to various toddler groups and activities, and have days indoors playing and baking and crafting. And let’s face it, this generation is surrounded by technology. They will grow up knowing from the outset how to use a computer, a smartphone, a tablet and more. It is Mr Lighty and I that are of the generation whereby I can remember being really quite frightened of using a computer for the first time at school, and yet now we use technology every day*.

*She says as she sits here typing up a blog post on the laptop, tabs open a plenty, smartphone beside her.

So I guess there is nothing that we can do other than do what we’re already doing. It’s our duty as parents to limit screen time to what we see as acceptable, and to teach that you can’t always have what you want in life; to teach our offspring how to deal with disappointment, how to work hard to get what we want out of life. And as the world changes and we have to embrace new technologies, we’ll just have to find new ways of doing this. Limiting screen time is something that has been on parents’ radars for years, after all. The world has been changing for generations, and I’m sure our parents felt the same way before us. And we all turned out just fine…right?!

So if you’ll excuse me, I’ll leave this blog post here. I need to reach for our Amazon Prime subscription and do something very important, like watch my latest TV obsession, The Marvellous Mrs Maisel.

On demand, natch.

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6 thoughts on “Can we Resist an On Demand Childhood?”

  1. I completely agree with you! I struggle a lot with the screen time issue, especially recently when we have been busy with baby stuff and have had to resort to tv to keep Alfie entertained! However, we don’t have screen time outside the house – not in the car, not on our phones, not in restaurants. That is my way of restricting his time in front of a screen, and that’s not to say that other people are wrong, but I agree with you that it is far too accessible and in my opinion Alfie has plenty of time for technology when he is older (as I know I won’t be able to avoid it then!)

  2. It’s a constant battle isn’t it! I feel like a slave to my littlest as he shouts random demands for “Bing!” “No not that episode!” ?? It seems to be just how things are now though. I remember rushing to press record when Tom and Jerry came on so that I could add that 5 min episode to my 60 minute “Dawn’s tape” VHS as a child that tape was my pride and joy. I even pulled out the tab so my dad couldn’t tape over it by mistake. Yep. I’m THAT old! ? xx

  3. I think that screen time can definitely have benefits – keeping the Little happy while mom gets a break being a HUGE one! But they also learn from the screen and I don’t think it should be a source of shame if someone lets their child indulge. #DreamTeam

  4. It’s a tricky one Mrs Lighty isn’t it. I totally agree that there is a bit of an on demand culture at the moment. I’ve noticed this creeping in (along with a new Disney Life subscription) at the Button house. I too remember the VHS tapes (Mine – do not tape over!!!! part 1) and running to press record and often missing off the start of a very important movie. Technology has certainly moved on (which I love). But I think it’s very easy to expect too much too quickly these days. We’ve started scheduling (?) screen-free, free flow play for the little, to make sure she’s stretching that imagination of hers. #DreamTeam xx

  5. I totally agree with you I often find myself telling my daughter I am not her TV slave as she wants me to put this that or the other on it makes you have to work extra hard to teach that you can’t always have what you want in life….god forbid the internet goes down then oh the drama! Thanks for linking up to #coolmumclub lovely xoo

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