Too much or too little screen time? | Artefact Motherhood | Cambridge Documentary Family Photographer

The summer holiday is here and I have been thinking about what to write for Artefact Motherhood. I could start by writing the great days we have had so far. The balmy hot weather we had at the start of the holiday that prompted a visit to Argos to buy a water slide, so you could play and cool off in the back garden. There was also a trip to the outdoor paddling pool too. We have made visits to the local library so you could borrow books for the summer reading challenge. And one of you lost your first tooth during some rough play at home! It was just one of those unfortunate accidents and I think the tooth had been wobbly for some months. Still there is never a dull moment in our house. 

I have documented some of these moments on camera, but as I wanted to gather a collection of our summer memories all together I will wait until the end of the holiday to fully reflect back on this summer that we are currently living. 

Letting the boredom in

Earlier this year I decided to commit myself to document the different ways that you, my children, like to play. I started it with a post about your Christmas gifts and the toys that you have most recently been inspired and taken an interest in playing. In the last Artefact Motherhood post, I shared about your outdoor play and instilling a love of nature. 

With the long summer holiday, I guess one of the most pertinent things on my mind is how to reduce the amount of screen time that you have. I know even if we fill the six weeks of holiday with plenty of fun and exploration, there will be some days when we will choose to relax at home. When left to your own devices, the both of you like to think up some games that would involve delving into the dressing up basket or moving furniture around. This would occupy the two of you for a great length of time, but the inevitable boredom would sometimes set in and that is when you would ask for the iPad or go and watch your favourite YouTube channel where you can watch Minecraft or other computer games being played.

Unlike some of your friends, we don’t have a Nintendo Switch or Xbox at home. Your dad and I have had some long discussions about putting off buying computer games, at least until you are both a little older. Your grandparents have offered your uncle’s old playstation for the two of you to play, which we thoughtfully declined. In the past, I have seen you experience terrible mood swings after you were asked to stop playing and begged daily to be allowed to play on the iPad. That was not fun to see and feel, and I doubt, for either of you too.

Inspiring minds: Centre for Computing History

Before you forget your early childhood was devoid of all computer games, your dad has introduced you to some that you could play at home. Computer or arcade games that I remember playing as a child, like Space Invaders and Street Fighters. I remember your granddad (Gung Gung) bought our first home computer when I was around nine-years-old. It took up a massive space on the desk that I think we even had a separate table for it. I do not remember if I was excited about it or just viewed it with some great curiosity. I learnt to do some basic programming on that computer and it was fascinating to see what technology could do.

Lately, I discovered the Centre of Computing History in Cambridge. I was flicking through a magazine and gathering some ideas for our summer adventures and day trips, before the holiday began. I came across an article about ‘Summer at the Museums’ - a programme of activities taking place at museums across the city. With a world-class city on our doorstep, we are lucky to have some great variety of little museums to visit without travelling all the way into London. Although some museums feel like hard work to take you to visit, particularly when you show no interest in the exhibits and want to run around and play inside.

For once, neither of you could wait to get inside this little computing museum. The exhibition area was all on one floor with different rooms holding permanent and interactive displays dating back to when the first home computer was created. I could see both of your eyes glancing all around as you gazed at all the computers. Also, partaking in the hands-on games that you could freely play. You were fascinated; all three of us were. Seeing the old and new machines along with other technologies that have evolved from the last fifty or so years, it felt like stepping back in time.

I picked up a leaflet at the entrance of the museum. On the cover, it read ‘Where parents become historians…’. It was quite odd to think that, but upon reflection I realised that we, as parents, can be great role models in the aspect of technology and play. For all the damage I fear is associated with too much screen time and online activities, I want to be able to cultivate a healthy interest for your inquiring minds and for what technology can bring.

 Two children walking into the Museum of Computing History in Cambridge
 Retro Arcade games in the Museum of Computing History, Cambridge
 Two children working the touchscreen displays in the Museum of Computing History in Cambridge
 Playing computer game on the Vik-20 in the Museum of Computing History
 1980s computers classroom at the Museum of computing history, Cambridge
 Computers in the Museum of Computing History
 Space invaders computer game
 Nintendo controls
 Two children playing computer games inside the Museum of Computing Science
 Playing on the W-ii at the Museum of Computing science in Cambridge
 Museum of Computing History in Coldham's Road, Cambridge

This is part of ARTEFACT MOTHERHOOD - a project shared with other female artists who are documenting our journeys as mothers and creating memories for our children through our photographs and words.

Go next to the wonderful artist Lauren Webster to read her post in our blog circle.