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Screens doubled as babysitters during lockdown. What now? | Emma Brockes

Karate, ballet, after-school club … keeping children occupied without technology is exhausting. But worth it

It has been more than a year since most kids had a regular schedule entailing full-time school and a slate of extracurricular commitments. In New York, that world of running from one venue to another, pursuing the dream of a seamless transition from school to karate, is in full flow again. And while the kids are in masks, they’re also attending in-person sessions, hoovering up skills they’ll have no great use for as adults. It’s a relief and a burden; and if it was like this before the pandemic, it’s also different. As much as we’re running towards something, we’re also running away from some of the worst aspects of lockdown.

I’m talking particularly here about screens, which for most parents have acted in the past 18 months, in the absence of other provisions, as babysitters and educators to their kids. It is strange, looking back to March 2020, to remember the thrill of early lockdown when all activity first ground to a halt. Along with the horror and uncertainty of the early pandemic, there was for many of us in those first few weeks a sense of release. The kids were exhausted, as were we. Having nothing to do and nowhere to go seemed like a corrective to an overscheduled, overpressurised existence. And so on to their iPads they went.

Emma Brockes is a Guardian columnist

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