Alan Brough on digital orphans and why it's good to be bored

Great podcasts for parents and carers

Fri 26 August 2016

12 mins

READING is our screen-free focus this week and it’s no surprise that this is one of Alan Brough’s favourite screen free activities.

Alan Brough is a comedian, actor and author of the book, Charlie and the War Against the Grannies, dubbing his protagonist Charlie a ‘digital orphan’.

“A digital orphan is a child whose parents are so obsessed with their smartphones that they have completely forgotten that they have a child,” says Alan.

While reading Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, he saw the power of an orphan as a character because they have freedom to go anywhere and do anything. This is exactly what Alan wanted for Charlie, having imagined his adventures and realising that parents would just get in the way.

All silliness aside (parents are quite fun), Alan does raise a few important things about screen time.

Screen time can be selfish

Something Alan sees in everyday life are parents so focused on the screen that they ignore their children, even in the park and at sports games!

“I was at the park with my daughter and there was a guy pushing his daughter on a swing while holding his phone up to his face, checking something,” recalls Alan, “He wasn’t concentrating on the child at all, and at one point the swing whacked him in the side of the head and knocked him to the ground.”

Even swimming lessons, where kids are constantly hoping their parents are watching, are less important than the phone.

“Personally, I don’t think there could be anything funnier than what’s going on in the pool,” Alan observes wryly about watching kids taking swimming lessons, “but a majority of parents are looking at their phones, and I’ve got to say, it concerns me.”

It’s an issue the comedian feels strongly about, seeing the on-tap entertainment as a form of compulsive self-indulgence.

Being bored is good

Alan gives his daughter the chance to be good old-fashioned bored, because he believes when kids are allowed to be, they will naturally find things to do.

 “In the Victorian era, boredom wasn’t even a thing, people would just quite happily sit in a chair and stare into space. They would just take time to be with themselves, to reflect or to daydream, and all those things are just wonderful,” says Alan.

Creativity becomes normal

Part of what comes out of boredom is creativity, so much so that Alan’s daughter recently started drawing her own comics and creating stories like her dad.

Though she hasn’t been too impressed with his most recent book, where grannies are the villains. Why would he make these old ladies the bad guys? Just to mess with us really, since they’re the last people you’d expect to be evil!

What are your family’s favourite books? Are you fans of Harry Potter, The BFG, or Snugglepot & Cuddlepie? We’d love to find out! Take a pic of your family reading your favourite book and upload it with the hashtag #screenfreechallenge #kinderling



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