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Screen time

Taylor Swift came onto the stage…


The crowd whooped. My five year old daughter whooped. Her 44 year old father whooped.

“I love Taylor Swift!” beamed Meri as her newest and best idol stepped up to the microphone. We were at the Radio 1 Big Weekend in Norwich. Ostensively, I was there to watch the Imagine Dragons, the Foo Fighters and maybe even James Bay.

I nodded and said, “I love Taylor Swift too!” It’s true and I’m not too proud to admit it.

Before discovering the delicious talent that is Swifty, Meri was obsessed, like every other pre-pubescent girl, with Frozen. Once we knew we were going to the Big Weekend, I decided that she should listen to some of the music she would be hearing there to get her familiar with the tunes. I played her a wide selection, one artist stood out for her – head and shoulders above everyone else.

When the inevitable “Shake it off” finale came on, father, mother, son and daughter were manically dancing like no-one was watching. We had a ball.

The following day, we got the i-pad out and showed little Meri that she could watch her heroine playing the concert she had been to again. She watched attentively and after watching once, grabbed the i-pad and deftly flicked her way back to the BBC i-player and put it on again.

And so it continued for the rest of the week. In fairness, she only watches Taylor Swift every other time. The rest she is actually watching other performances from her day at the concert.

On about day three, my wife looked at me. “It’s starting,” she said.

“Huh?” I said, not following what she was on about – a not infrequent occurrence.

“She’s overdosing on screen time. She’s been watching that iPad practically all the time she’s in the house. We need to limit her screen time.”

“Hmm, You’re right. You read about this and of course it’s true. We’re going to have to think about rationing it.  But we can’t make a big thing of it. I don’t want it to turn into a lifelong battle.”

“How are you going to do that?” she asked.

“Not sure, I’ll have to think about that.”

Two days later, we went into Meri’s room first thing in the morning and there she was, in bed with the i-pad, watching Taylor. It was time to act.

Later that day, I sat down next to her. “Meri,” I started. “You do know that you can’t watch the i-pad all the time.”

She nodded. Wise before her time. “But I like it.”

“I know you do but there are lots more important things that you can do and that you should do.”

A half-hearted nod.

“Tell you what, come over here,” I said, moving over to my laptop. “Look at this.” I brought up the Taylor Swift merchandise page. “Do you want a Taylor Swift T-shirt?”

Another nod. This time more enthusiastic.

“Well. If I buy you a Taylor Swift T-shirt, will you promise to only watch the i-pad when mummy and daddy say it’s OK?”

“Yes!” Bribery clearly works and so I ordered her a bright pink Taylor Swift T-shirt. Whilst I was at it, I ordered myself one too. Ironically, of course…


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