A good few years ago, I was in a concept meeting to develop a new primary maths programme where the phrase 'digital natives' was being bandied around. Back then, we were just on the cusp of children becoming more digitally-savvy than their parents - and this was revelatory. It was something we were having to explicitly work with, and highlight, as a reason why our maths programme should include digital elements. "Because, ha ha! kids know their way around a computer better than we do!" went the argument. Back then, when iPads and smartphones didn't exist. Oh what fun there was to come. If only we knew!
Now it's just taken as read - kids and technology - we don't call this little generation 'digital natives' anymore because, quite simply, it's no longer remarkable that they're au fait with technology. Quite frankly, it would be more remarkable if a child wasn't clued up nowadays.
But although the integration of technology into our children's lives has been seamless, oh the PAIN that same technology causes in our home. The arguments that spring from its use, or rationing, or removal. And the hours my boys would spend inside staring at one screen or another if only I'd let them.
So I chortled when I read the headline in this report that suggests nearly 25% of children view playing computer games with a friend as a form of exercise. Because my two sons have said that very thing to me on countless occasions. Oh yes, sitting hunched over a keyboard, moving only your fingers at rapid intervals whilst barking at your brother to get a drink so you don't miss anything is DEFINITELY a form of exercise isn't it? As is wandering around the house with an iPad glued to your face ("I am getting exercise Mum, look I'm walking...").
And I nodded furiously when I also read the sage advice imparted by the report's authors that "policy makers can [either] feel nostalgic for a time before the challenges new connected technologies have brought in engaging young people, or they can harness these technologies to their advantage."
Very sensible of course. We can't fight progress, neither would we want to. For example, when my son starts secondary school I would have a positive fit if I didn't know I could contact him at any point via the mobile phone stuck variously in his pocket or to his face (btw, he doesn't have one yet but is already counting down the days). And I LOVE that my youngest son will happily practise his times tables with this app over and over again.
But we can't let this progress take a negative toll on our youngsters. So we HAVE to harness the potential of these technologies to transform how our kids do stuff away from, as well as in front of the computer/iPhone/iPad/iPod/Wii screen.
So as a very tiny start, I've downloaded this couch to 5K app and I'm going to show it to my eldest son. Because he could do with taking a bit more exercise and I think this will be right up his street. I mean CLEARLY, I'm not going to do it with him, that would be madness, but my husband sure can and I bet they'll enjoy the shared time. A treble win then: technology, exercise and Dad-time!
Perhaps less constructively however, I've also hidden the iPad in my knickers drawer, but baby steps right?