Matthew Munson: Screen time, growing up and our sponsored walk for Caldecott Foundation

Bryan and Matthew did the Colour Run and are now getting ready for a sponsored walk

I have been plagued by a cold this week, but I don’t want to complain; man flu is a bug bear I’ve endured with good grace and fortitude. If you speak to anyone who has met me this week and they tell you different, then they’re lying.

Bryan has also recently had a cold, but he’s just shrugged it off; he’s 11 and didn’t have a single symptom either time he had covid, so I suspect his constitution could shrug off the loss of a limb.

Neither of us are very sickly people; Bryan is a very empathetic young man, so he is respectful when people aren’t well, but he also then quickly moves on – I got a “Oh, that’s a shame” when I told him I’d got a cold, and then he wandered off to find his mobile phone, so that was the end of the sympathy card.

Bryan and I have been having some conversations about screen time recently; at bed time, we read together and then he has the choice to have another half an hour to just chill out in his room. Within reason, he can choose what to do – listen to music or a story through his Alexa, or read, or practice some of his magic tricks. The only thing he can’t do, however, is use a screen. I want to give him the chance to rest his eyes away from his tablet, his phone, or the TV, and I also want to gently remind him that there are other ways to entertain himself than just the allure of that screen.

He’s been a bit resistant to that message in the last few days – not massively, but just a gentle push to see if I’ll budge, so we had a little chat the other night to just re-establish some boundaries. As he grows up and his bedtime gets later, he’ll get more opportunities for screen time and other hobbies, so this is a good chance for him to learn what does and doesn’t interest him. He seemed to accept it with only a small sag of his shoulders, so I was relieved about that.

Being a parent is so often a juggling act; how strict or permissive do I get in a particular situation? I look back and strongly suspect that there have been occasions when I have failed to get the balance exactly right, and perhaps even forgotten my sense of humour on a couple of occasions, but I hope that I’ve got the balance right more often than not. Bryan will give me pretty accurate feedback on that one way or another, I’m sure of it, and I need to make sure I listen to that; I want him to listen to my advice, but if I’m going to be talking to him in a way he resents, then I’m getting it wrong. I don’t think I’m doing that, however, and I’m comfortable with our relationship.

That said, he’s obviously confident enough in our relationship that he is pulling away to explore his own personality more, and that’s entirely right and fair. He walks to school and home again entirely by himself now – except when I meet him to go into town for haircuts, and that’s one day a month too much for him right now – and I suspect there’ll be a time when he meets friends along the way. He enjoys the privilege of being able to get that freedom, and I enjoy seeing him growing up. I do have to remember that he is growing up and that I shouldn’t micro-manage everything; he deserves the opportunity to have that freedom, and I need to be there if there is a problem.

By the by, we’re doing a sponsored walk in a couple of weeks for a children’s charity here in Kent, Caldecott Foundation; it’ll just be the two of us walking round the coast of Margate and Broadstairs – and, if Bryan can cope, into Ramsgate as well. I’ll leave my just giving page here in case you wanted to contribute;

We succeeded in doing the Pilgrim’s Hospice Colour Run last weekend; I think Bryan was caught off-guard by the 5km walk being hard enough, and a run would have been too much right now – some training would be needed first before he felt comfortable with that. It was lovely to see events like this happening again after covid paused our lives, and it’s brilliant to be active and spending time with my amazing son.

1 Comment

  1. What an interesting view of a caring parent who is clearly on the ball about their child, or any child, having an understanding about use of that most extraordinarily useful, yet at the same time, also most insidious and dangerous item ‘the internet’. Of course, children guarded of their exposure and meeting and abiding by required parental boundaries at home will likely see said boundaries breached when a child is at school among children and their mobile phones and tablets not so parentally watched ~ unless, of course, the school is vigilantly watchful of their pupil charges. That said Matthew’s son and dad might consider in up-and-coming sponsored walk recording their walk with a video showing scenes along the way with comments about who huffed ‘n puffed the most and who hobbled along with blisters during their sponsored walking task.

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