Parental 'Tablet Bribes' are Just a Fresh Take on Old-School Punishments

By Gerald Lynch on at

Sorry if this question brings up long-buried, repressed memories, but how were you punished as a child? Docked pocket money? Straight to bed with no supper? A good old-fashioned grounding? New research by Childwise shows modern parents increasingly using technology as a bargaining chip for good behaviour with their children.

With youngsters spending more time online than out with friends, and YouTube and Minecraft more popular pastimes than even television viewing, mums and dads of the 21st century are holding the threat of confiscated tablets, smartphones and laptops over their unruly children.

"Parents like tablets because they are controllable - a tablet can be given or taken away to reflect good or bad behaviour, in a way that is not possible with a conventional television set or computer," quotes the BBC from the Childwise research.

"Apps can be purchased as rewards, and, with the growing use of tablets in primary schools, there are strong perceived educational advantages."

However, while dishing out tablet time is a relatively new aspect of child rearing, tech-based punishments are far from a fresh trend, as the survey would otherwise seem to suggest. I remember my dearly departed Dad hiding the power pack to my SNES console until I'd done my homework, or stuffing the control pads out of reach on top of a high kitchen cabinet after a particularly nasty brawl with my younger brother. Worst of all was having my Game Boy batteries confiscated -- being able to hold the handheld console without being able to power it up was an excruciating tease.

And, as far as any punishments worked, Pops' technique worked -- homework got done, apologies were uttered and my time kicking Bowser's arse was all the more precious.

The difference today then lies not with the confiscation of a gadget, but with the confiscation of "access". To be precise, internet access. Even with a smartphone hidden away by Mum or Dad, it's not the call-making abilities that are missed, but being able to check a pal's latest Instagram post, or the Snapchat that everyone at school will be talking about tomorrow -- not to mention the genuinely valuable stuff, like Wikipedia and study guides. In an age of instant information, being disconnected is now a fate worse than death for histrionic teens.

A recent study suggested that 75 per cent of the British public considers internet access a human right, a point that could in time make confiscating a tablet a taboo on a level similar to what smacking a child now is. It's far fetched, but we're approaching a future where parents may have to consult a lawyer before squirreling away that laptop charger for fear of being called in front of the European Court of Human Rights.

Image Credit: Portrait of child with digital tablet (modified) from Shutterstock