(This is another Ask a gran question sent in by readers of the Radio Times.)
I’ve got a 12 year old son who’s discovered screens, big-time: he has an i-pod Touch, a laptop for his ‘homework’ and an X-box. We ban screens in the evening during the week, but he spends every waking hour on them at weekends. How can I get him back to enjoying what he used to do: playing outside? When I say all this to him, he tells me I sound 105!!
I think you should encourage your 12 year old to do a little more outdoor activities, and exercise, but as far as laptops are concerned, there is a big world wide web out there, and the internet is the best educational tool ever invented.... and some of us on GN probably spend just as many of our waking hours on the laptop as he does.
I think we will have to accept that screens are here to stay. Just as we watched the telly more than we should have done, then our grandkids will be at their various screen options more than they should.
Why not ask him for genuine help on the computer - do a shopping list, email an old friend for you, find out about something you actually need, organise photographs into albums and so on? Make the computer a productive part of the day.
Join in games - ask opinions , review them online [ I think you can do that]
Then offer a totally unrefusable outdoor activity from time to time based on what he likes.
Don't knock it! My son had a similar habit. Now he is a senior systems analyst in the USA at only 24 years of age. He loves every minute he is at work and has now returned to physical activity when not at work.
Not having screens may not guarantee that children will spend more time outdoors, and not everyone likes sport either, so an alternative needs to be a really attractive option. I do question the wisdom of giving children these expensive toys, but once it's done you can't take it back, so unless you can negotiate a compromise then you're stuck. Like J13 says, these things pass, as with many childhood phases.