There’s Christmas done and dusted all over again. I don’t know about you, but I’m exhausted; not because I’ve had to do any cooking on Christmas Day (thanks, Mum), but because I’m the father of a 10-year-old boy.
4am. That was my wake-up call on Saturday morning. I’m not complaining, mind you, but all the presents had been opened by 6am, we’d seen and played with our neighbours, and I was doing breakfast. I’m not used to so much early-morning activity; I prefer waking up slowly and taking my time. My son, however, very much disagreed, so it was an early start.
Bryan loves Christmas, as you might imagine, and he had been desperate to open presents from about 1st December – so by Christmas Day, excitement had reached fever pitch at Casa de Munson. Seeing the festive season through a child’s eyes is a privilege, and he was bouncing off the walls – playing Monopoly is a feature every Christmas Day because Bryan expects it, and it’s not for me to argue with family traditions.
Bryan got a phone for Christmas this year … gulp. I’ve always been a realist when it comes to technology; children are going to be exposed to it, so I want them to understand how to use tech safely, have fun with it, and treat it with respect. It also helps prepare him for secondary school in nine months (double gulp), because he’ll want to start exerting his independence more by walking home by himself or with his friends. My anxiety will be mollified a little if I know that we can talk over these pocket computers that also double as mobile communication devices.
So far, Bryan has an interesting relationship with technology; he’s not overly bothered by games consoles. He’s the only one in his class without a console; not because I’ve refused to get one for him, but because he’s declined to have one as a present. He has a tablet, but doesn’t often play games on it, and finds the social media accounts his friends have as rather uninteresting.
This is a moment in time, of course; he might change his mind in years to come, but I respect him for having his own opinion. I’ve never forced him to take a particular view on tech – yes, I’ve shared my views, but tried hard to be balanced in terms of the benefits and risks of tech – and he seems quite resolute in his determination not to have a console, social media account, or many online games.
Bryan is a very active child; he likes sports, dancing, and being outdoors. That might have something to do with his view of the online world, and I doubt very much he is alone in that; it’s very important we teach children how to be safe online, and also how to enjoy the offline world – the real world – as well. He and I try to enjoy the real world as much as possible, and I’m not a gamer – so I’ve possibly influenced Bryan more than I realise.
But knowing that Bryan has a mobile phone reassures me. His phone account is linked to mine, and we’ve spoken a lot about respecting and trusting tech, but also knowing that we need to understand and treat it carefully – sadly, there are people out there who manipulate it to their own ends. But it’s not my role to then keep all tech from my son, but to teach him how to use it carefully and with respect.
I am already reassured that we’ll have that contact when he starts to stretch his wings; it’s another way of keeping him safe. His Christmas present allows him to have that freedom and that safety.
Bryan and I have a lovely Christmas together; I’m blessed with a son who thoroughly enjoys the season and lets me see the festivities through a child’s eyes. He’s quite cool, you know.