One thing I love about blogging is that I don’t need to have all the answers. I can talk about things that I think about, things that I question and debate but don’t ever seem to reach a conclusion on. Like my latest musings over children and technology, which I think are quite timely with Christmas fast approaching.
Im pretty sure some form of technology gadget, be it an iPad, iPhone or iTouch (for all those mini Apple aficionados) or a Galaxy Tab, Lexus or Lumia will be at the top of most children’s Christmas lists this year, which leads me to my question; “at what age do you start to allow children to have access to tablets and other technology if at all?”
Before I had children I had always thought that I would be one of those parents that didn’t let their children watch TV, full stop. The subject of technology had never entered my mind. I suppose because iPads and iPhones weren’t really around back then so I had no reason to think they would be as prevalent as they are today. That they would pose a bigger question than TV does. Incidentally I do allow my daughter to watch TV very, very occasionally – its funny how your perspective on things change once you actually have children.
However Ive noticed over the last year or two that children seem to be getting access to tablets and the like younger and younger. Ive also noticed that they have a bit of a knack for it. But im in two minds about how to approach this with my daughter. Because on the one hand, I feel that developmentally exposure to such technology cant be a good thing for her young developing brain. However, on the other hand technology is clearly the future and surely it would only make sense for her to get to grips with it whilst she is young like the rest of her generation seem to be. Should I really be the one holding her behind when I don’t know what the future looks like? But there is a part of me that wants her to experience the real pages in books and not electronic ones on a Kindle, that wants her to enjoy stacking real wooden alphabet blocks and have fun playing with a real abacus rather than through apps on an iPad. For me its a real dilemma. These tablets and gadgets offer so much so easily. She can do all of the things I describe above and more without even having to move from one location. No having to get out different toys and put them away, or even necessarily having to buy new toys. These tablets and gadgets make it all so easy and convenient, for both the child and the parents. They are not only play things, but educational too. They are an entertainer, an educator and a distraction all in one. The thing is, no matter how hard I try to conceal the iPad or iPhone from my daughter, she sees it and she notices. I see her attention caught by the shiny things with lights on. At 5 months old my daughter is already entranced by these gadgets (what is it about children and technology?!). At the same time, I am aware of just how much I use both of these things so how can I expect her not to want to do the same once she is able to.
Our neighbours recently came round for coffee with their five year old son. With Christmas approaching I asked the parents what toys he is currently into. I was expecting to hear something along the lines of cars, Monsters Inc or perhaps Lego. What I wasn’t expecting to hear was that their child is no longer into toys. That he used to like cars but since he started using the iPad all he likes is the iPad. I didn’t bother to ask whether he liked the cars we bought for him a few months ago. The point is, that at five years old a child has stopped enjoying toys because of a piece of technology has made them redundant in his world. Now perhaps that is a one off, but it was the saddest thing Ive heard in a long time, and it is not something that I want for my daughter.
So the question I put out there to other parents is how are you raising your iPad generation? How have you introduced and moderated technology in their lives? What has your approach been? What have you learnt and what are your recommendations to new parents?