It is 08.00 am on Friday 28 May 2021, two hundred and sixty-nine days from the start of the 2020 – 2021 school year.
This was launched across France. The initiative signed up 105 schools and 14,394 primary school kids.
1. Wednesday 26 May – start of a 10 primary school programme for kids to accept no screen time!
Each pupil received a very well planned and comprehensive 44-page magazine, full of alternative things for them to occupy themselves with. Suggestions included: exceptional things to cook; origami; construction projects; colouring projects; sudoku; anagrams; crosswords with hidden words; balloon water bombs; messages to decode; tours of local landmarks, play parks, libraries and museums; and, once you have done all that, you’re supposed to finish up with family exercise routines!
A few insightful, forward thinking Mums and Dads have already banned their kid’s access to TV and computers in the house so that they would be free to grow up and blossom in the good old-fashioned natural way. Most Mums and Dads, including us, although well aware that too much screen time can afflict kids with ‘a really nasty addiction’, have defaulted to the usual laissez faire attitude. Now, it is common for parents, as they wait at the school gates to pick up their kids, to pass the time sharing and lamenting the difficulties of separating Child from any screen device. It routinely takes a mountainous, sustained effort of parental patience and perseverance to take on a Child who has developed a very professional, well-honed, defensive shield of negotiator-cum-pleader skills. Parental nudges, instructions, warnings of dire consequences, they all go unheeded, as if the kid has turned deaf. It routinely ends in stern words and/or actions to physically extract and / or confiscate the device from the scene, followed by real acrimony from the child – ‘Don’t ever speak to me again, I really don’t love you any more’. Given that screen time tends to be a daily event, with double helpings at weekends, an otherwise happy household is blighted by a recurrent source of major disruption.
2. We don’t actually blame Child at all.
She is just one of the many millions of kids who have been very skilfully targeted by the media giants. All their huge workforces worldwide are totally focused on sucking in and wrapping every child of any age into their media web, an electronic hypermarket filled to the gunnels with what they call “cartoons” or “games” or “apps”, (it really doesn’t matter which format, they are all equally bad) and all containing fast moving, highly coloured, visually stimulating images of pretty girls, pretty horses, pretty cats, for the girls, and titanic monster this, titanic monster that, head to head clashes and conflicts for the boys (you get the picture), all swaddled in either nice bouncy, catchy repetitive musical scores or noisy, climactic, explosive side-effects, and all pretending to follow the paths of non-existent story lines revolving around exotic warm cuddly scenes, or high speed with crashes, explosions, races, killing, shooting, exploding, (you name it, they will have it somewhere in their collection). Yes, we know, there are also lots of quite nice, gentle, reasonably innocuous cartoons, games and apps for the kids to watch but hey, they’re not nearly so inviting and so interesting to watch to young, very curious and enquiring minds.
And, as if that is not enough, between these garbage episodes, there is all the advertising, exciting the kids with the latest clever, must-have toy, commonly a shockingly expensive piece of 100% plastic crap – not a dicky bird about we all need to help wage war to save the planet already brim full of the stuff – and not another dicky bird about what the toy companies are doing to help!!! Maybe it’s time to ban all non-essential plastic – that would put their gas at a peep!!
3. And guess what, we at least got a result!
Child behaved really brilliantly, accepting the need to be an active cog in the giant hamster wheel of 14,393 other kids. Sure, we had the odd moment of visible and strongly expressed weakness. Overall, she surpassed all our expectations. Her very own solution was to read, read and read. She threw herself into it, deep diving into her Roald Dhal and Jacqueline Wilson English series, followed by her J’aime Lire magazines and her La Cabane Magique French series. We spiced this up by taking her out for air, exercise, ice creams, bike riding and roller skating. Now that the experience has finished, we have reached a tough point – holding top level head-to-head negotiations to agree new screen time rules going forward. All it seems to be doing at the moment is honing even more her already brilliant negotiating skills.
4. A real gem of a bonus, totally unexpected!
Self-isolation over the past year has at least been beneficial in one regard – it has made us all into much better cooks, with real thought and effort going into planning and preparing new, outrageously tasty meals that make us feel good inside and uplift our spirits – a critically important function and 100 times better than any anti-depressant or alcohol. Great combinations, great flavours and great textures are serious topics of conversation at our dinner table. Here, we just have to tell you about a real gem of a cake recipe we found as a spin-off of the cookery section of the ‘no screen time’ programme. It is called Courgette Chocolate Cake, very simple to do and ticks all the boxes Mum has made three lots already!
200g dark chocolate
80g plain flour
½ sachet of baking powder
5. Adding to our time pressures
Last week we noted, surprisingly, that almost all of our available time is now being taken up by only four activities: house hunting; daily outdoor family exercise and relaxation; shopping, and the daily to-ing and fro-ing for school.
With the “holiday season” (Covid willing ????) fast approaching, we have also had to start looking further afield already, hoping to identify a choice of in-country holiday destinations that are both:
So, we are investigating camping sites with chalets / log cabins first on the assumption the great outdoors will provide us with the best anti-Covid 19 protection. Not holding our breath on this one.
We predict that we will find it impossible to trust what any ‘desperate-for-business’ holiday rental provider is going to tell us.
By John Saunders
World Health Communication Associates (WHCA) & INSPIRIT Creatives UG NGO,
MediaWise and MediaFocusUK
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