Marie Louise McConville: Screen time can be a risky business

Singer Sam Smith came under fire this week after a new music video was branded 'hyper-sexualised'. Picture by PA/Isabel Infantes
Marie Louise McConville

WHAT did parents do before screen time?

I honestly can't even fathom how mums and dads entertained their kids before tablets and platforms like YouTube.

Don't get me wrong, it's not an option I rely on a lot of the time but now and again, it's a life saver.

That said, with the days of them asking for Peppa Pig and Paw Patrol now gone, letting them go online has become a risky business.

YouTube can be a wonderful tool to help children learn about the world but without the option to set age limits, I am uncomfortable with letting them go on alone.

And it seems I'm not the only one who thinks there needs to be more parental control on such platforms.

Singer Sam Smith came under fire this week over a new music video after it was branded `hyper-sexualised', with some even saying it was a part of a move towards `normalising pornography' in pop culture.

The video for the new track I'm Not Here To Make Friends shows the performer arriving at a castle in a helicopter before dancing alongside a large number of performers wearing corsets, suspenders and nipple tassels.

In other scenes, the dancers are filmed on a bed wearing black leather underwear and later surround Smith, who is non-binary and uses the pronouns they/them, while dancing provocatively.

Following its release, some critics branded the video "vulgar", raising the point that children as young as five could be watching it.

Journalist Alex Phillips, appearing on ITV's Good Morning Britain, said it was "unhealthy" for society.

"We live in an age now where porn is becoming so normalised," she said.

"It is in music videos, it is in fast fashion that is being marketed to teens and we also live in an age where we know that people are getting sexually assaulted at school.

"It is bad, it is unhealthy, it is not good for society and this is a symptom of it."

However, radio presenter Shivani Dave defended Smith, saying others such as Miley Cyrus had already made similar videos.

"What I think the difference here is that Sam Smith was assigned male at birth and we are not used to seeing people who are assigned male at birth dancing around in lingerie and corsets and things like that," he said.

I have to admit, it's not a video I would want my kids to watch.

Sam Smith has a fantastic voice but I think there needs to be some kind of age restriction on such videos.

Children should be allowed to enjoy being children and not be made to grow up fast because they happen to see something online.

I guess it falls to us parents to police the online world as it seems the providers aren't interested.

I say bring back Kylie in the bubble bath singing the Locomotion – now that's what I call fun and not a tassle in sight!


Davina McCall is reportedly on the verge of being signed up by ITV to host a new dating show dubbed 'Love Island for the middle-aged'.

Sources have told the media that the Masked Singer judge would be perfect to host The Romance Retreat, which will see single parents live in a villa.

Earlier this month, the 55-year-old outlined her idea for such a show.

Speaking on Steven Bartlett's podcast, The Diary of a CEO, she said: "I could fill a villa in Love Island with middle-aged people with the best back stories you have ever heard in your life."


Davina McCall is reportedly on the verge of being signed up by ITV as host of a new dating show dubbed 'Love Island for the middle-aged'. Picture by Harry Page



So, who's up for winning a "gorgeous book, with atmospheric illustrations and a vibrant, uplifting story about

embracing our differences"?

Out of the Blue, which has been written by Robert Tregoning and illustrated by Stef Murphy, has been described as a "stunning celebration of being yourself".

Only blue is allowed by the Blue government. Anything that isn't blue, by colour law, is banned.

In a very blue house on a very blue street, sits a little boy who feels as blue as the world around him.

For this little boy has a big secret – he loves the colour yellow.

In a world where only one colour is allowed, will he be brave enough to tell his dad? And will they be able to defy the rules and create a world where every colour is welcome?

I have six copies of Out of the Blue to give away.


Competition Pic


If you would like the chance to win a copy, simply email your name, address and telephone number – along with the answer to the question below – to

Closing date for entries is noon on Tuesday February 7.

(Q) Who wrote Out of the Blue?

Normal Irish News rules apply.


The winners of the Blackbeard's Treasure competition are Eilish McCluskey from Portaferry, Clara Scollay from Belfast, and Anne McPolin from Strangford.