It’s 12.30am, and time for my pre-bed ritual: tiptoe upstairs so as not to wake the children, brush my teeth, turn out the lights … and then catch sight of that telltale, flickering blue glow coming from under the 15-year-old’s bedroom door. I mentally prepare myself for the nightly battle, and knock on the door.
“Come on, Fred, turn your phone off – it’s nearly 1am and you’ve got school tomorrow.”
“Don’t lie, Dad. It’s not ‘nearly’ 1am. It’s only 12.30.”
“Just turn it off and get to sleep. Please. It’s only crappy videos on the internet – they’ll still be there in the morning.”
“But I’ve done nothing wrong!” (I paraphrase: this is a teenage boy we’re talking about here, so his “conversation” is littered with swearing and streetspeak, which are best left to the imagination.)
It wasn’t always like this: until a couple of years ago, rather than gawping at YouTubers drinking live goldfish and who knows what else they get up to, my darling boy wasted his waking hours playing games, specifically Mine-bloody-craft. How I hated it, with its stupid, make-believe world of pixellated, Lego-faced critters and monsters. Some commentators went so far as to argue that a Minecraft habit was somehow educational and healthy, the fools.
And it’s not just us parents who are made miserable by our offspring’s online addictions. Earlier this week the NSPCC chief executive, Tim Wanless, warned of a nation of deeply unhappy children, due to “the pressure to keep up with friends and have the perfect life online ... adding to the sadness that many young people feel on a daily basis”.