My son is 19.5 months old and his current first love, besides his dad and me of course, is Elmo. So, in my quest to continue being the greatest mom ever, I decided to show him that he could have instant access to Elmo by pulling up some great videos on our iPad. Now, I have to squeeze in a chance to use my iPad. Perhaps it wasn’t my best idea but it brought up something we had not considered before. How much technology should our toddler be exposed to?
I suppose I should start by saying that my son, who only now is stringing together words to make a sentence, has been iPad savvy for at least 6 months (I’ve only had the tablet since Christmas). He has his own apps and knows where they are located. This kid knows the home button and can swipe better than I can. He even has shown me things I didn’t know the iPad could do. So, this brought up an interesting conversation between my husband and me. How do we strike a healthy balance between what will clearly have an impact on his generation, and the simple joy and beauty of opening up a book?
Our son is growing up in a world where information is instantaneous. E-books are becoming a reality and newspaper readership is down because we get our news on the Internet. Technology is reshaping the publishing industry in ways that no one could ever have imagined, especially with the advent of the tablet. Let’s not talk about how social media is now affecting our every day lives. I just read an article in the Atlantic about how a brand new app called Highlight is already driving social connections in new ways.
To put everything in perspective, my husband and I grew up in an era of the Dewey decimal system, taking typing class in high school and research meant going to the library. I mean, I can still recall the encyclopedia salesman who went door to door selling them…lol. We also grew up in a time when we knocked on our neighbor’s door to see if our friend was done with their chores so we could play. That was our social connection app. Oprah’s interviewed a group of Hassidic women and their families on her show Next Chapter. Their children don’t watch television and they keep technology out of their world. They read and play family games among other things. It’s admirable! But you would need to live in a really insular community to successfully achieve this goal and we do not. Don’t get me wrong, my husband and I are tech savvy and we don’t want our son to be left behind. So it brings us back to the question, how much is too much?
We decided on limiting his exposure. Though that is easier said than done for a toddler. It literally means I have to put the iPad out of sight or risk a meltdown. His right brain is king so reason has not kicked in yet. I also suggested to my husband that perhaps we talk to an educator to see if there are any studies that are looking at the effect of technology on this generation. However some of what we are talking about may be too new to have been addressed. But they may have some insight and ideas.
In the meantime, we will do our best to balance his love of Elmo on the iPad along with his other apps. The good part is what he does view is educational. We will also continue to read books to him, take him outside and talk to him about all the things we see as we walk. Right now he loves being outside. Give the kid his hat and he puts it on, says bye-bye and heads for the door. Let’s hope we can fan that flame before the onset of video games…lol.
Perhaps those of you who have been so kind to read this post have ideas. It does not matter if you have a tech-obsessed toddler or not. Please feel free to respond. Even if it’s just to say, “This is only the beginning!” or “Hang in there, Nadine, this is the easy part.”