A children’s book published in time for Christmas could make parents think twice about snapping up the latest computer game for their offspring.
Self-published by a mother of two with a professional background in IT, Timmy’s Technology Trouble describes how a happy, well-balanced, fun-loving little boy changes for the worse when he receives a tech device for his birthday.
His parents do not manage his use of the device, so Timmy spends all of his spare time on the games console.
“Initially he has great fun on it with his friends,” says Kenmare-based author Niamh Ahern, who is originally from Clonakilty in West Cork.
“However, Timmy becomes a poor winner and a poor loser; he becomes mean to his friends.”
The book tracks the deterioration in Timmy’s behaviour as a result of his obsession with the console: His friends get tired of him, but Timmy doesn’t care, because he’s always playing on it and he doesn’t see the effects it’s having on his life.
“His behaviour at home changes — he won’t do his chores and shouts at his family. He effectively becomes socially isolated,” says Niamh, who adds that the key message of her first book is the need for parental management of Timmy’s time on the console rather than a ban.
To her knowledge, there is nothing like Timmy’s Technology Trouble on the Irish market,” she says.
Colourfully illustrated by Italian artist Valentina Boschi, the book is aimed at readers from four to nine years.
It is strongly endorsed by forensic psychologist Maureen Griffin, who works in the area of online safety, and by Unicef Ambassador and ex-Irish rugby star Donncha O’Callaghan.
“I worry, that over the last five years, our usage of tech devices has hugely increased — you go into a restaurant and people are on their phones, not making eye contacting or having conversations,” says Niamh.
“I am concerned about young children and teenagers — in 10 years, will they be able to communicate effectively face to face?
“I don’t advocate banning tech but some games, like Fortnite, can be highly addictive for children, and I believe parents need to realise the need to manage it.
“It’s a challenge for all of us because parents don’t want to isolate children by banning them from tech.”
However, on the other hand, she warns, many do not comprehend social media or understand the potentially addictive nature of some games, or the long-term effects that tech can have on a child’s socialisation.
“I am not an expert; I’m not a psychologist, just a parent observing from my own experience,” says Niamh. “Tech has moved so quickly that lots of parents have been blindsided, and don’t understand what it is or what impact it might have on their children in the long term.”