I find myself in a bit of an uncomfortable/unsure position as a parent of this day and age. Why? Because our society is consumed by the desire to be constantly connected — so much that parents are urged to have their children, from the point of infancy, distracted by technological devices. The tech/toy industry has brought us baby/toddler laptops, cell phones, tablets, movies, video games, and apps. So what are we supposed to think about this?
This is important: If we neglect to educate our children about technology at a young age, it may be difficult for them to survive in the modern world as they grow older. The longer they wait to learn, the longer it will take them to learn — and they may never catch up to the rest of the world. This could cause problems not only socially, but also academically and professionally. Primary, secondary, and higher education require a degree of technological competence. Even schools in poor, rural Mexico are increasingly prompting students to research specific topics online and to own a personal computer in order to facilitate the completion of assignments. Then into upper levels of education and in the real world, demand for techsavvy individuals in any given field is high. And need for those without tech experience is almost nonexistent.
But this is important, too: While I am not the type of person who despises technology or societal progress, I am a believer that too much of a good thing can cause a lot of problems. With technological devices running our lives, we are dependent and distracted. And despite what gets posted on Facebook and Twitter, most of us are actually very average, boring people. Some of us lock ourselves in our rooms to play multiplayer online games all day. Others of us are so anxious that we can’t deny ourselves the chance to glance down at, or stick our noses into, our devices continuously while we are at a family reunion, at the movies, at a civic event, or sitting down to a meal with our favorite people. We have little practice of courtesy in this sense. We also seem to have less patience and self-control now than in previous generations, because we expect everything to occur instantly and flawlessly. We don’t have a clue what to do otherwise.
Early 2011: D playing on his Igloo “activity table” with his drumstick and drums. While you’re looking, notice our “advanced” version of babyproofing — clear packing tape to hold the doors shut on the entertainment center; this was the only babyproofing I think we ever did.
So in raising D so far, the basic rule on this subject has been the standard, “everything in moderation.” We did not allow D to watch television until around 18 months of age, and even then it would only be a minimal amount so that he would not be clueless about other things going on outside of what we were able to teach him. D is turning 4 years old this summer, and on any given day he probably won’t watch more than a couple hours of TV in total, if at all. He can maneuver the Roku a bit. No action movies, no thrillers, and goodness gracious! — no horror movies for him (I don’t see the benefit of gruesome events happening in front of a young’un’s eyes if we can help it). He has an ancient version of a LeapFrog device so he can play some games and develop his coordination and learning skills that way. D listens to a lot of music, whether in the car, in the kitchen, or with Daddy and the iTunes, etc. He sometimes carries around my old cell phone — which doesn’t do anything except flip open, because I have no idea where the battery charger is. He talks on the phone briefly when he wants to say thank you to someone for sending a gift or card, and when Aron is calling the family in Mexico. Otherwise, he enjoys spending his days with his Duplo creations (we recently watched a documentary about dinosaurs, so he makes “fossils” out of his Legos and digs them up out of the pile of toys), painting, drawing, playing games, putting together puzzles, sculpting with clay, exploring nature, reading, playing with friends (at the library, at home, at church, and at zumba), and running/riding around with us at the park.
This is something we haved struggled with at times. I think it is important to refrain from bombarding the little ones with too much of anything. Remember, a cardboard box or paper bag can easily transform into many more things (with some imagination and perhaps creativity) than almost any given toy on the market! Little by little, we will be working with him more on computer skills and typing, but at this age we are not in a rush for him to become completely engulfed in the devices.
Tell me about it: how have you gone about maintaining a balance of life + technology?