It's a topic discussed in just about every household around the UK – and indeed the world – are our children looking at screens too much?
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When it comes to young children and screen time, the World Health Organisation recommends no screens for babies under one year and just one hour a day for children aged two to four. Former Strictly dancers Ola and James Jordan are parents to 22-month-old daughter Ella, who like most toddlers her age, can already operate an iPad and loves watching Peppa Pig – but does she stick to her one hour a day, and do mum and dad agree with the WHO's screen limit?
WATCH: James and Ola discuss little Ella's screen time!
In their parenting column below, the couple discuss the pros and cons of TV and iPads for toddlers plus what they think about older children having phones and being on social media. Will they let Ella have a phone when she's older?
James and Ola on Ella's screen time
James: When we used to go shopping at Bluewater and see children in buggies with either iPhones or iPads, I used to think, 'What bad parents, how bad is that?' But now I think that times have changed.
When I was young, I supposed I was that generation that thought it was wrong – but that's only because all the screens weren't around in those days. We had three TV channels on a box in the lounge. Everything was scheduled – you had to wait until 7pm to watch your favourite show. We didn't have things like tablets and the internet. Now you can watch things instantly.
On the iPad we use for Ella we have educational apps and games, and she really does use them. They teach her colouring and how to say words and shapes. At this moment, she's playing a game that shows her a pattern and she has to find the correct egg to match the pattern.
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Ella looking cute in her bear hoodie
Ola: The moment Ella started to watch Peppa Pig she started to say, 'Mummy' and 'Daddy'. She now says things like, 'Cup of tea'. We don't even drink tea! And she constantly wants to wash her hands because Peppa Pig washes her hands, so I think that's great.
James: The jumping in muddy puddles thing from Peppa really annoys me though! I know kids love it but I'm not great with mess!
Ola: Sometimes the screen is an easy way out, isn't it? Sometimes you've got to do that.
James: Yeah, like if you go out and your child has a meltdown, you don't want them to scream and annoy everyone so you give them an iPad – if it keeps her quiet, amazing.
There are certain times where you go, 'Ok just have it.' I don't think it's a bad thing, because there are so many educational apps.
Ella playing on her iPad at home
Ola: Yesterday when we went out we took the iPad with us. I try not to take it with me because I don't want her to get used to having it in the car or when we're out, but I took it yesterday in a bag. I didn't give it to her until we got home.
James: Even when she was having her meltdown in Wagamama, we didn't give it to her.
Ola: Then when we got home I needed to cook her dinner so I put Peppa Pig on the TV while I did that.
James: Does screen time include TV?
HELLO!: Yes, all screens – one hour a day for her age…
James: No, that's rubbish. These people are from the dark ages! Times have changed, the apps and shows are educational now. What do they expect you to do as parents?
Ola: If we're at home, Ella tends to play in the lounge with her toys and her little kitchen while her TV show is on in the background, and she'll look at it from the corner of her eye.
It's to help us out too. If I've got to go and put the washing on, it keeps her occupied for a bit. Of course, most of the time we are with her, playing games, reading to her or taking her on outings.
James: Or do you start teaching them young to wash up, to put the washing on and clean their bedroom at 22 months?
Ola: The moment she goes to nursery she won't have as much TV because she'll be playing with other kids. When she gets home she'll maybe get that hour of screen time or whatever, and then she goes to bed.
James: Right now she's home all day and you need to stimulate them.
James and Ola Jordan with daughter Ella
Ella and mobile phones
James: With our phones, she doesn't touch them at all. The only time she'll want to is if we're watching something and both laughing, then she'll want to see it. She doesn't take our phones; she leaves them alone. She's not interested.
Ola: She knows she can have her iPad.
James: She goes on it for about 20 minutes then gets up and goes and plays.
Ella is so good on the iPad – and I didn't realise she could do this – she'll go into Netflix on her own, scroll down, find Peppa Pig, put it on, make the screen small, put it up in the corner, swipe it across, and then she will put a game on. While she's playing a game she'll be watching Peppa Pig in the corner. And she's 22 months old. I don't even know how to do that!
Ella turns two in February
Should children have phones?
Ola: It's very difficult. James, you say because you've got strong opinions on this...
James: Yes I do. I think it's disgusting. If every child at school has a phone and your child doesn't, you're actually then being cruel not giving them one because they'll be bullied at school. It's almost like you're pressurised into doing something that's maybe against your will.
I believe children shouldn't be on social media until they are 16 years old. It should be the same as having sex, in my opinion. I think it can really harm children.
When I was at school, some children used to be bullied, then go home and be safe in their family surroundings. Now they go home and get bullied on social media. It's really bad and it should be stopped. There should be a law banning it.
Ola: There definitely should be a limit on age for social media. I agree.
Ella and dad James
James: And when people say: 'Oh, my child needs to have a phone because I need to be able to get hold of them and make sure they're ok'... I didn't have a phone when I went to school! I was ok. I couldn't contact my mum until I got home. People say it's different nowadays. No, it's not. Why do they need a phone?
Ola: Because things have changed.
James: Give me one good reason.
Ola: Just in case they're in trouble on the bus or changes to school pick up times maybe? It's such a difficult thing.
James: I just know I'll end up going against my beliefs because I wouldn't want Ella to feel she's the only one without a phone!
Do you have a parenting question or topic you'd love Ola and James to discuss in their column? If so, please get in touch via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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