As a “tech-savvy” parent (I write about video games, for heaven’s sake), I was probably slightly less perturbed by the revelation from Ofcom’s consumer survey that six-year-olds understand more about digital technology than 45-year-olds. I actually think that’s incredibly positive. My own sons (aged six and eight) had the latest gadgets to hand from birth, due to my inability to put anything away. Their inquisitive, sticky fingers were smearing mashed banana all over iPad screens and Xbox controllers before they could talk. There have been many occasions where I’ve sat in my home office happily slaughtering enemies in Call of Duty only to turn around and find my boys staring open-mouthed from the doorway (“Daddy, what are you doing?”). Now games like Minecraft and Terraria are part of their daily lives. They text their nan, they download apps, they can take a photo and make it a smartphone wallpaper. That’s all fine; they are going to need that level of digital literacy to survive – that’s what I tell myself.
But there are some elements of my digital lifestyle that I’d rather protect them from; some routines I hope don’t become inveterate to them. I mean, imagine if their daily lives started to work like mine – a digital obsessive with a compulsive need to share everything. They wouldn’t just be able to go out into the garden for a casual kickabout – they’d need to set up a live stream over Twitch, with ongoing commentary – then edit the funny bits into a YouTube video, promoted via Twitter. Playing hide and seek in the park would involve GPS tracking. I’d think I had geo-located one of them, only to find that he’d attached his smartphone to a squirrel. I don’t want to deliver their bedtime stories via a series of Snapchat mimes.