It was when I started collecting bruises on my face that I knew it was a problem. Even though I’d known for a while that my son’s phone use was something I needed to keep an eye on, the turning point arrived when he plunged it directly into my eye.
It was a standard 5.30am start and I was greeting the day like all parents of toddlers; detached, groggy, delighted to see my son, but also in that half-mad waking state common to normal human beings. Toddlers have no such setting. As an 18-month-old, he wakes up each morning as if he’s been chugging Lucozade in his sleep. Fourteen seconds removed from unconsciousness, he’s ready to run a 5K, fight a giraffe and write the Great American Novel. In moments like this I have been known to hand him my phone for some respite Peppa Pig, just while my brain slowly rebuilds enough to fetch his morning bottle.
I know. This is bad and lazy and possibly deleterious to society. I should be quizzing him on Bach’s cello works while I feed him Eritrean supergrains, but it’s 5.30am and I’m not yet sure if the dream I had about my old landlady interrupting my maths GCSE really happened or not, so cut me a break.
When my son sees a phone his face lights up
It doesn’t help that I find the entire narrative of technology avoidance so annoying. Whenever I walk into a café and see that its Victorian moustached manager has written a sign saying ‘NO WI-FI. Why not try talking instead? ’ I’m seized by a desire to hold this Poundland Banksy by the whiskers and pulp that stick of chalk into his eye.
That said, the ease with which my son navigates phones is terrifying, and this seems universal. I have been up close and personal with a lot of children since my son was born: some who could walk and even talk a bit by the time they were one, others I wouldn’t trust with a sofa cushion by the time they were three. But I have yet to meet a single toddler unable to swoosh their stumpy digits around a smartphone screen with the precision of a Soviet typist.
When my son sees a phone, his face lights up the way mine does when a takeaway delivery arrives. His favourite is his nana’s, of course, which has that same little pink leatherette folding case which all Irish nanas are required, by law, to possess. But in the early mornings nothing gives him greater joy than to grab mine for a slightly snoozy cuddle while he downs his first milk of the day and I allow sentience to return, slowly coming to life like a Polaroid picture. That is until he swooshes one stumpy digit a swipe too far and decides, not for the first time, to smash the phone into my eye in frustration.
I’m going to have to remove my little addict’s crutch. As much as it pains me to admit, the Banksys of the world are right. My son has a problem, and the solution has been staring, and hitting, me in the face.
Follow Séamas on Twitter @shockproofbeats