Mellow Mummy: Our Children, The On-Demand Generation : Taking life as it comes...

Friday 12 August 2011

Our Children, The On-Demand Generation

Our children have been born into an on-demand world. Television, images, videos and information is more-or-less immediately available in modern, online Britain. In a world where we can get what we want when we want it, how do I teach my children the virtues of patience and how they should deal with disappointment?

As a mellow mummy, I don't suffer guilt about the amount of TV my daughter watches or the number of electronic games she plays (I like to think that we've found a natural limit that works for us); but I AM becoming increasingly aware that Lara's own experiences of TV, video and the internet are very different to my own.

Lara is two. She will quite regularly ask me whether she can watch a bit of "Peppa Pig" or "Thomas Tank Enge", sometimes politely, sometimes agressively. When the moment is right, I will happily oblige. I switch on the TV and, if there is no Peppa or Thomas on right then, I will choose an episode from the many hundreds I have recorded on Sky+. If I really don't have anything available on disk (for instance when we last had our Sky box replaced) then I know I can turn to the internet or my ipod for a few episodes that I have bookmarked or downloaded.

Lara has Peppa Pig available at any time of day or night. On the otherhand, myself and Mr. B come from the channel-hopping generation. We quite often find ourselves sitting through adverts or trashy TV waiting for something worth watching. Our Sky+ disk is 90% pre-school viewing and only 10% adult viewing (no, not that kind of adult viewing!)

It wasn't until last week that I really began to think about the effect of the on-demand culture on my toddler. I had deflected numerous requests for Peppa Pig with jigsaws and play doh before Lara innovatively inserted the TV controller into my hand and said, "press the Peppa Pig button Mummy". For some reason this knocked me for six. Does Lara REALLY think that there is a direct 24/7 Peppa Pig feed streaming into our house? Have I denied Lara more valuable viewing experiences by satisfying her need for on-demand Peppa?

We have, on numerous occasions, been asked to play something that we have not recorded (Thomas the Tank Engine was one such thing - we've put that right since). In these circumstances we switch to CBeebies or Nick Jr. but if she doesn't want to see the programme now showing, Lara will burst into tears and throw a tantrum. I know that this behaviour is symptomatic of her age, but it does set a worrying precedent.

Now is the time that Lara needs to learn that we can't always get what we want... at least not right now, this minute. Some things (perhaps even Peppa Pig) are worth waiting for.
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