Thursday, 15 October 2015

"She's coming to get that book,"

the Senior Cat told me.
"That book"? I thought about it for a split second and then said,
"Oh, Nicola's book?"
We ordered several copies of Nicola Morgan's book, "The teenage guide to stress". We know stressed teenagers. We know people with stressed teenagers. They are reading it. If you know a stressed teenager or someone with a stressed teenager then I recommend it.

And so, a little later, a friend of the Senior Cat arrived looking hopeful. I passed the book over and she sat down to look at it - and to talk to us. 
Now the Senior Cat is of course experienced. He brought up four kittens and we have all turned into reasonable cats. He was responsible for a great many more in his working life.
Me? I never had a kitten of my own. I am in loco parentis to Ms Whirlwind in the absence of her father and I have two godchildren but one of those is now old enough to care for herself and the other one is all male "I don't need a girl to help" independence. My goddaughter has been through the teenage stress bit. I had endless e-mails while she was going there and doing that. Ms Whirlwind seems to be escaping the worst of it for now. She can and does talk to her father. She can and does talk to me. She will go to the head of the boarding house at school if she can't work out how to solve a problem. She avoids "screen time". Her mobile phone is only used to call her father or me or another adult.
"My friends think I'm weird," she told me. 
"Does that bother you?" I asked her.
"No. They're still friends."
I don't think it does bother her. She could do some screen time now if she wanted to. Her father would allow it at weekends. So far she hasn't bothered. She prefers to read or do other things. So do her three closest friends.

I told our visitor about this. She sighed and, inevitably, wished her child was the same, "I wish they had never invented the damn things!"
We agreed. Screen time is a problem. It takes up too much time but that is perhaps the least of the problems. The bigger problem is that it is "instant". It demands attention. Now. Immediately. You can't not "be there". You have to respond. There seems to be a fear of what I am thinking might be called "screen failure". It must be incredibly stressful. 
There is news this morning that a twelve year old is being monitored because it is feared he has been "radicalised". A twelve year old is not mature enough to fully understand the consequences that relationships with those who are radicals might bring. He probably feels important and "grown up". In reality he is almost certainly stressed out by the possibility of "screen failure" and the likely consequences of that. 
I don't know what the answer is. I just hope Ms Whirlwind continues to largely avoid screen time. There is definitely something to be said for reading books instead.

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