The New York Times ran a piece last week, which yes, took me three days to read, about toddlers and their newfound love – our smartphones. True, we’ve talked about using your smartphone as a distraction for your kids in the past, but it’s also important to note, as I think Hilary Stout, the author of the NYT is stating, that you don’t use your iPhone or iPad as a replacement for…you know, real life.
I’ve got a friend, (who I’m fairly sure doesn’t read this site), who beams with pride when he tells you that his son motions for his EVO 4G phone, opens up YouTube, goes to the top-rated list, watches a video, then heads over to the internet browser, and surfs the net in two tabs. My friend is proud that his toddler is able to conceptualize how to get from point-A to point-B, opening the correct programs, clicking links, watching a video, etc etc.
Here’s where things get weird. My friend “doesn’t know” how old his toddler is, intentionally or otherwise, but I’d put him at about three and a half years old, considering we’ve known him for three years, and his son was born before I met him. And all things considered, this 3+ year old doesn’t talk. I’ve never heard more than the basic pre-word sounds out of him – and he’s not a shy kid. They have a bilingual household where the mother primarily speaks Spanish and the father primarily speaks English.
Now, let’s kick it into overdrive. The father, because of his child’s technological prowess, wants to buy him an iPad. My wife and I have tried our best to politely discourage it, not wanting him to replace the interpersonal contact of a kid’s computer class with a handheld object. Other issues aside, I believe that it’s this sort of mentality that Stout is getting at in her article. I mean, everything’s “bad” for you if you do/eat/watch enough of it…so it’s up to us as parents to regulate the use of technology when there’s perfectly good alternatives. Why give a kid an iPad to teach him (or her) spelling when you can sit down and interact with your child yourself? Why plop the kid down in front of a computer when you can get them in an outdoor activity with their peers?
In other words, don’t you dare buy a Woogie.
This, of course, will not apply at all to me when I buy THQ’s uDraw for the Wii. I hope my kid plays that until he’s crying pixels of joy, turns into the Lawnmower Man, and locks me out of the very virtual reality world I’ve created for him.