January 28, 2013

Technology & Babies: If I'm What's Wrong with Parenting Today, Then I Don't Want to be Right


Back in April of 2012, you may recall an article I wrote about how I had planned to give my “legacy” iPad to my then 9 month old, and apparently this topic has stirred up some conversation on technology use and its role with children today.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has had a firm stance that children under the age of two should have no screen time whatsoever; that the screen time has been meant to include tablets, computers, smartphones and any other gadget with a screen. The argument has been that the lack of stimuli from objects other than a screen can lead to developmental problems.

Cut to 2013, I’d like to call upon one of my comments specifically in which I noted I made a “completely uninformed decision” in regards to giving my iPad to my child.

Writing about the Internet, specifically writing about parenting on the Internet, can be both rewarding and absolutely irritating, because if there is one group of people that fully believe they are absolutely, 100 percent right when it comes to raising the human race, its parents. 

Image via Shutterstock

Now, to all of those with the same opinion out there, I do have one favor to ask when it comes to opining on the words I put forth: please do so with some backed-up facts and cite your sources. Also, please read the articles that you are commenting on and read them in their entirety.

Our friend has assumed that my “ignorance” in giving an iPad to my son is a way to calm him and pacify him, and that I am doing quite a bit of damage, and will no doubt begin to see the ill-effects of iPad use in the ways of ADD and language development issues.

Here’s my stance on technology use with my kid: I choose when to use it with him, with specific apps that are interactive and geared toward his developmental level. The fact that many of these apps have several options on every screen and are not entirely linear allow for more enrichment the following times it is read through. Some of these apps even have notes for parents on how to use the app with their children on any given page. 

The fact that I can stop my son from flipping a page and ask him a question or two to lead him to a new tangential part of the story or allow him to discover it on his own is much more in line with Vygotsky’s “Zone of Proximal Development”, the precursor to “scaffolding,” which is widely accepted as the most appropriate way for teachers to instruct, assess, and even enrich students at varying levels of ability with the same classroom materials.

My commenter provides anecdotal proof of iPad use gone wrong, that his/her nephews are demonstrating iPad addiction because, clearly, the nephews’ parents are misusing a wonderfully excellent learning tool and substituting it as a pacifier. 

I am sorry for your nephews; perhaps their parents should not acquiesce so easily and strive to actively engage them in conversation more often, or in 3-D play with physical objects.  It seems that, based on your description, that the problem is not iPads or how they affect the way young brains are stimulated; it’s the fact that their parents give into their urge to play with one thing all the time. 

My son loves Sesame Street. He likes Elmo, Grover, Cookie Monster, and most monsters that are blue (his favorite color).  But just because he loves these things, I do not employ these as tools at the first sign of distress in my child; I decide when it would be best for him to watch these programs and characters based on the patterns I observe in his behavior.

Parenting magazine just happened to highlight this very topic in their February 2013 print issue in an article titled “Swipeout!,” in which the author discusses the fine line between technology addiction versus technology engagement, and I couldn’t be more horrified as it sounds to me like the nephews are most certainly leaning toward the technology addiction side of the argument. Much like everything in this world, technology use is all about moderation.

What my commenter has failed to research beyond personal experience is that kids engaged with interactive media have shown to retain information better, and that the iPad specifically has given autistic children an opportunity to communicate better with their parents and caregivers

This technology-or-no-technology argument begs the question then, that if the iPad is decidedly evil for children, what of the more kid-friendly tablets hitting the market? Are they also the root of all that is terrible when it comes to child development?

The iPad, along with the many gadgets out there, should be part of a balanced “diet” that includes physical play and non-electronic activities. To deprive children of these devices would be a disservice to them; they are living in the digital landscape. Choosing to focus on one activity over another, whether it’s high-tech, low-tech or no-tech, is not the way to foster creative thinking and expression. As parents, we need to not only empower our children in succeeding; we need to foster variety. Digital skills will be required in order to study, work and even communicate effectively down the road. 

It is unrealistic to expect that we as individuals will have less screen time in our lives; from generation to generation, you should expect more technology infused in everyday life.  What you might want to do is come up with better criteria for what is “good” technology use and what kind of technology “rots your brain.”  We have seen this argument fall flat on its face as time went on, especially when educational versions or programs were developed for them. (i.e. TV rots your brain and so on.)

So, I say thanks for your input, and if it is true, that technology use with my kid is what makes me wrong with parenting today, well, then I certainly don’t want to be right.




Edited by Brooke Neuman



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Tablet    Smartphone    Apps
       

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