It’s not easy being a parent. A couple of weeks ago a friend admitted the only way she can have an uninterrupted conversation with her mum when they’re out having a coffee is to give her two-year-old her mobile phone to play with.
She’s not alone. The phone has become the first response for harassed parents when they need to keep their kids occupied. These days it’s not that unusual to see toddlers playing with a phone – my friend’s brother reckons smartphones are like ‘baby crack’.
Toddlers and mobile phone addiction
It’s true that mobile phones have become addictive. Look online and you’ll find lots of articles on the problem – with even two-year-olds getting hooked on mobile phones.
My friend has already noticed that when she doesn’t give her toddler the phone, he starts screaming. And when she asks him to do a drawing, he’s finished in seconds rather than spending time being creative. Her observations are backed up by research that suggests too much screen time can affect children’s concentration Mobile phone addiction in kids has also been linked to higher incidence of anxiety, depression, attention deficit disorder and behavioural problems.
Make reading a habit for your kids
I’m lucky that when my children were growing up smartphones weren’t around so they never got hooked (though they still spend too much time attached to their phones for my liking!) And I think having a book-obsessed mum helped. From an early age, their eyes were opened to the joy of reading to feed their imagination rather than staring at a screen.
Reading with your child, or to them, is one of the activities that psychologists recommend to help prevent mobile phone addiction . Of course that’s easy when you’re at home and have access to books – but what happens when, like my friend, you’re out in a cafe?
Some GPs and dentists offer a small selection of books for kids to read – but I’d like to see lots more places getting book-friendly. Shops, restaurants and hospitals could all provide a mini-library filled with books. The books could even be themed according to where they are – like travel books for an airport. How cool would that be for kids to read about faraway places just before they get on the plane?
Books to keep kids occupied
Here at Tidy Books our bookcase and book box have already started to appear in some shops. Even the smallest places can accommodate our mini-library because the slimline bookcase holds 85 books and there’s enough room for 40 books in the portable book box
We love that it gives kids plenty of choice. They’re not faced with a sad little pile of books – instead they have a nice big selection and the front-facing design of the products means they can easily pick out the book that grabs their attention.
Unlike smartphones, children won’t get addicted to books. But reading will definitely keep them occupied. And while your kids are happily engrossed in a good book, you can enjoy a guilt-free coffee with your friends.
Geraldine is Tidy Books’ founder, designer and CEO, as well as mum to Adele and Emile. She started Tidy Books in her violin workshop because she couldn’t find a good bookcase for her kids. Now her Tidy Books bookcases and storage designs are encouraging independence and a love of reading in kids all over the world.