Don’t take the technology away from the Toddler!
Is technology really causing issues with our children? Many parenting websites have forums for parents to ask questions and get answers. Sites like Quib.ly, and http://dotcomplicated.co, which was created by Randi Zuckerberg, are among the many.
Update: One year after originally writing this post, I can say that Alex has proven that he can moderate his own time with technology. We have one TV running in our home, full-time, with children’s shows. Alex is almost 3 years old and his understanding of colors, the alphabet and numbers is staggering. The wonderful part of this story is that he does play outdoors, play with his cars, do some coloring and read his books with us. The TV captures his attention when he’s bored or wants to do something different, but it doesn’t consume his time. He used to play nonstop on my iPhone between 12-26 months, but he doesn’t come to me very often anymore. When we are in restaurants or on the road, he will take some time to play with the iPad or iPhone, but he hasn’t become addicted. Technology is nothing more than a picture window into education, and by raising our children with it, they treat it like any other toy in the room. -SC
What was the reason everybody decided technology was harmful to our children’s growth? It might have been that the only technology our children were using, up until 5 years ago, were gaming consoles and personal computers, which they used while sitting on their butts. The new and old research was based upon ‘static’ computing, and now we have mobile computing. There were handheld game consoles, but they were never as prevalent in society as the iPhone, iPod Touch, Android or other tablets have become today. Parents are worried, as they realize their children are spending way too much time in front of the TV, or at the computer.
My wife and I believe in ‘reactance theory’ when making decisions about our son’s well being. As Wikipedia defines it, ‘Reactance is a motivational reaction to offers, persons, rules, or regulations that threaten or eliminate specific behavioral freedoms. Reactance occurs when a person feels that someone or something is taking away his or her choices or limiting the range of alternatives.’ We also take to heart, what our neonatal nurse told us, when we had our first worries about raising him on formula only. “Will our decision have an impact on whether he goes to college or not?”. We now look at a lot of our decision-making from this point of view. Is playing on the smart device for 2-3 hours a day going to prevent him from going to college, stunt his growth, or cause mental health issues? No, he’s actually learning an incredible amount of information from using the iPad and the iPhone.
Alex is our only child, and he just turned 2 years old, a few weeks ago. We started him on the iPhone as soon as he could hold it. We allowed him to watch the Baby Einstein videos, and now educational cartoons. My wife has taken him hiking 2-4 times a week since he was born and he now walks the hikes with us on his own. He moderates his own time between TV, iPhone, playing with toys, and playing outdoors. The reason I started my company, GenZPlay, was because I was worried that he would play too many video games indoors, and I was wondering why almost every video game is built for the couch. About a year ago, I started to create outdoor, interactive fitness apps for kids, and my first one, Big Cat Race, is now available on Google Play and iTunes.
Nothing beats a little outdoor exercise and adventure. Building education and fitness apps for the outdoors is a way to bring the child closer to the beautiful world around them, and to also fill that supposed void of electronic need that they have. I allow my son to take the iPhone with him to bed a couple of nights a week. After about a half hour, I enter his room and ask for the iPhone. He gives it to me immediately and then rolls over and humm’s himself to sleep.
I setup some informational boards at an outdoor craft and apple fair and talked to 100’s of parents. 99% thought outdoor gaming was a great idea. One couple said they didn’t allow their children to touch technology at all. Who do you think the hindered child is going to be? A child with no technology time, or is it the child with too much? The iPad’s are becoming an increasingly important teaching tool, and when the mobile device or smart phone is idle, our children want to use it, as they see us using it so much.
My goal is to have our electronic devices become a tool that my son goes to for education and inspiration. I don’t want my son glued to a screen, where his brain is lost in a virtual world, and missing out on the real one. I’ve been working with computers since 1979, so for me, the technology has lost its ‘wow’ factor, and I only use my iPhone when I need it or to have some fun occasionally when the brain needs a work break. Hopefully my son will be the same way.