Our kids aren’t ‘school ready’ and it’s all our fault, apparently

We’ve been told often enough that we shouldn’t let our young kids have too much screen time (although how much is “too much” is anyone’s guess.)

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Now it seems we have to cut back on our own screen time, too. Not for our own sake but for our kids. And if we don’t? They’ll struggle at school, fail all their exams and lead thoroughly miserable, unfulfilled lives.

Well, not quite. But according to a survey of senior primary school staff members, large numbers of children starting school have speech problems and lack certain social skills, such as the ability to hold a conversation.

The Key, an information service for head teachers, sought the views of over 1,100 senior level primary school staff for the report. Apparently, a huge number of teachers have concerns about their pupils’ low levels of reading, writing and numeracy, as well as their poor social skills. They say 194,000 kids aren’t prepared to start school this September.

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“We are having more and more children entering our early-years stage with delayed speech and a lack of school readiness,” said one head teacher. “I feel much of this is down to challenging family circumstances alongside the rise of mobile phones and other mobile technology, which means parents are more often to be seen on the phone than talking to their children.”

“There is limited parent/child interaction. Four-year-olds know how to swipe a phone but haven’t a clue about conversations,” said another.

Dr Hayley Van Zwanenberg, of the Priory clinics, told The Telegraph that children “transfixed” by social media and messaging risk growing up emotionally stunted and unable to cope properly with the real world.

Clearly, if a parent is glued to their smartphone or iPad 24/7, it’s not going to do their kid any good. We need to set a good example, and it’s really all about limits. A few simple rules (for the whole family to abide by) can make a big difference. Such as no screens at the dinner table. Or in the hour right before bed. Or in the car on the way to school.

But making sweeping assumptions about how a parent behaves, then using these assumptions to blame them for their child’s “lack of school readiness” is counter-productive. You can’t stop people using their smartphones. Just like you can’t stop some parents from yelling at their kids every night, or from not getting home from work until long after they’re tucked up in bed.

Parenting is hard — with and without smartphones. There’s no argument that we’d all benefit from less time facing a screen and more time facing our families. But guilt-tripping doesn’t benefit anyone.

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