How much is too much? Calling time on computer games and smartphone apps

How much is too much? Calling time on computer games and smartphone apps

There are some amazing educational apps and games for kids and your smartphone can be an absolute lifesaver for avoiding public meltdowns, but do you worry that your child is spending too much time playing in front of a computer screen?

Like TV, before your children actually reach gaming age it’s very easy to say that you’ll only allow them 15 minutes a day, but when they’re nagging about it non-stop and you need to get dinner on and their brother is going apoplectic because he doesn’t like being ignored… well, let’s just say that it’s very easy to give in and forget about the timer.

But is this really such a bad thing? We talk to two mothers who hold completely opposite views: Anya, who allows her children unlimited time on their iPods, and Ricky, who doesn’t even have a computer in the house.


“My kids both have their own iPods and they are a lifesaver. They do jobs around the house to earn money to pay for downloads, and I make sure that most of the games they download have some educational merit. We also have a Wii, which the kids use most days. I’ve never limited the amount of time they have on these things, as they seem to self-limit themselves. Sure, some days they’ll be on it for a couple of hours or more, but then other days they’re too busy playing outside or with their Lego. I think that the more I tried to stop them the more they wanted to play – and with two kids and one on the way I really do have to pick my battles.

I got my eldest his iPod when he was struggling with reading at school. I downloaded lots of reading apps and I truly believe they helped him catch up and gave him confidence. I just don’t think computers and iPads are a problem – they are just the way the world is now. If I can't put my iPhone down, why should I expect them to? Better that the kids learn how to use them properly than fall behind because they are technologically deprived. I certainly don’t think it will stop them from succeeding at school, and they both play lots of sport and do loads of other things apart from play their iPods. And long car journeys are a breeze!”


“I hate seeing kids with their noses in iPods completely oblivious to the world around them. We survived our childhood perfectly well being bored and finding our own fun, so why should we just hand over entertainment on a platter, just because it makes our job easier? And don’t even begin on the ‘it’s educational’ argument, because we all learned to read and do our times tables without having to use a computer.

I want my children to love being in the real world before they start getting obsessed with the virtual. I hear other mums complain about how their kids never stop begging to play different games, and how obsessed they are, and I feel quite happy that my kids know that unless I hand them my iPhone (which I never do), they simply don’t have the option. Yes, they do moan about it, but they soon forget and start doing something else. Something more creative and real. We sing and play games on car journeys, and we play… shock horror… board games on rainy days. Yes, my kids do watch a bit of TV, but they also read, draw, bake and simply muck about outside instead of click click click with their fingers.

I’m convinced that they’re at less of an obesity risk and are on a much healthier lifestyle path being ‘deprived’ of computer games and iPhone apps. Seriously, what memories are they creating when playing those obnoxious things?”

Who do you agree with – or do you fall somewhere in between? We’d love to know how much time your children spend playing computer games/apps. Please share in the comments section below.


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