As parents, you will always be faced with this question: do I start my kid off on iPAD/iPhone or tablets etc?
The horror story is that your 3 year old becomes addicted to tablets (not the pill), and becomes a vagrant by 4, and by 5 is a washed out kid, done with the world. As a parent, you are faced with accusing hands pointed at you as a failure.
My kid uses the tablet. There. Judge me.
Which was exactly what one principal did at a pre-school we were checking out for his first year at pre-school next year (he turns 4). We were chatting and she casually asks if I give my kid iPads and stuff and I just said yes. Immediately her eyes widened and she said firmly, “NO!! You MUST NEVER give it. NEVER! Not to a toddler. You do not have a clue what the effect is!” and throughout the entire 1 hour we were there, she kept harping on this as if we just fed our kid cocaine.
Finally as she was hounding my wife when we were exiting, I just said to her, in my most polite tone, “Ms <so and so>, while I appreciate your concern, don’t you think it’s extremely hypocritical of you being so staunch on no iPad for kids but yet your husband hasn’t kept his hands off his phone in showing us all the videos of your kids? If the kids see him, they will obviously think it is ok, right?”
“Oh no, it’s ok for adults. Not for children as they are developing”
“Yes, but then you should keep it off during classes. Your husband shouldn’t be playing with it. Just saying.”
Needless to say, we decided not to go to that school and signed him up elsewhere with a more well rounded development, and less of an Amish principal.
Now – is it good or bad?
You will find ENDLESS banter on why its good, why it’s bad. The fact is this: the bad outweighs the good on the internet, because everyone advertises the bad. Oh, how Steve Jobs banned iPads to his kids etc. But what about the kid genius who learned how to code a solution at 3 and became a nobel prize winner? Oh, no that was the teacher, not the tools.
You will find countless stories of addicts, but not the good stories of how using technology helped accelerate mental development. The fact here is that, there is not enough population of testing to swing either way. Maybe in 10 years we will have empirical evidences. As of now, some like this principal is treating the iPad as satanic, the way my father’s church pastor claimed that the TV is from the devil. You know – these kids are going to be launched in a world with technology. They need to get to know it sooner or later.
However, to give this lady credit, I do agree with her on certain aspects on iPad or tablets. We have established family rules:
1) Devices (here, we mean phone, iPad, iPhone, games etc) are strictly banned from the meal table. Sometimes we extend this to our closest friends as well. This means not event the parents can whip out the phone for urgent SMS unless it is life and death.
2) Devices are banned when walking, or taking the stroller or what not.
3) Devices are banned in the car
4) Devices have strict end-times. When Papa says stop means : “STOP”.
Where we are a bit loose – when we travel on planes, when we are engaged in talks with our friends over coffee (meal table means main meals – we are flexible on other drinks/yumcha etc); in meetings, where we need to bring him along; when he takes a dump. He prefers to play his toys mostly, but sometimes, he watches youtube on how to set up trainsets etc. Right now, his favourite is watching the educational youtube on Planets. He knows all the eight planets and all their characteristics, as well as the lesser known dwarf planets. At one time, he said, “4 dwarf planets are from the Kuiper Belt. Make make has no atmosphere and was discovered in 2005.” and another time, said, “Haumea is oval like an egg because of the fast rotations”. No kidding. He said those words; but because he was memorising the song, not because he knows what rotations are.
Another time, he said, “The red spot on Jupiter is a raging storm.” and “The highest mountain in the solar system is on mars.” and as I looked at him a little stunned from my noodles; he calmly adds, “It is called Olympus Mons”.
One thing you need to do, is to MONITOR. I am always at his side, and the moment I hear some nonsense on the iPad, I quickly stop it. This could be a silly advertisement, or he accidentally clicks one of those terrible cartoons like Spongebob and the disney channel crap. As much as I can, I limit his channels to Thomas and friends and tayo the Blue Bus for non educational, and other times, go through educational channels to learn his fruits, his veges, his planets, his countries, his ABCs, his maths, his numbers, his dinosaurs etc.
At the end – is he retarded due to the use of iPad? No, in fact, he can now, at 3 years old, carry out a perfect conversation with me, often asking me, “What do you think of <subject is whatever we just finished, like a walk, a meal, a place etc>” and he can explain to me stuff he did for the day when I asked him how his day was. He can also stop me mid sentence and wag his index finger like his mother, “Wait, stop it, I need to poo poo”.
Is he addicted to iPad? For sure, we do see the effect, when I do say Stop, he throws a little tantrum. I dont deny it. Prolonged use and management by iPad WILL have negative effect, we just need to MONITOR it and have a judicious view on this.
I might be wrong of course, and they find iPad as bad as weed or marijuana one day. But till that day comes, I won’t swing either extremes: As a tech evangelist for toddlers, or as an Amish lady running a pre-school of kids who wear loincloths.
#EXCUSE the italics in this post. I am using an older laptop to type and somehow the entire format is messed up. Only when I bold it, it becomes straight#