I came across a great quote recently about electronic devices and children. In April, “The Atlantic” ran an article on electronic devices and their effect on the toddler brain. In the article “The Touch –Screen Generation: What’s this technology doing to toddler’s brains?” Hanna Rosin states that, ” Norman Rockwell never painted Boy Swiping Finger on Screen….:” a ubiquitous site if there is one. I do believe this quote captures some of the anxieties and complexities of modern parenting and the parental sense of “grasping at straws” when it comes to dealing with the use of technology and our children.
I think there is a spectrum of parental comfort and discomfort with electronic devices and feelings among parents about their proper role and use. In this household, we have been wrestling with the issue. Recent events led my husband and I to allow our nine year-old to purchase an iPod Touch with her saved money. As we foisted limits on her with it, left and right, it has still left me a little unsettled and conflicted about the issue. I try to see its advantages. It has many neat capabilities, that she can navigate. Navigating these devices makes her a leg up on technology and builds a comfort zone in her rather than a fear of using it. The games she likes seem very innocent. For example, they are games in which she simulates making cakes and cookies; buys dragons; and makes her screen turn into fireworks. She can check the weather; look up information: and takes notes on it. Yet when she immerses herself in it, I get this visual of her turning into too many children I have seen who are engrossed with them; do not play with other toys; do not go outside; do not respond to conversation, etc. etc. For us, strict limits were the plan from the outset. Currently, she gets 30 minutes on it a day. She cannot save time from the other days. When behavior goes south, so do her privileges on it. We will also probably institute a screen free day. She has to ask before she gets on it, each and every time. All in all, this has worked out okay.
While it seems part of my Norman Rockwell version of childhood has been permanently altered; I never wanted to make the technology that is available with these devices forbidden either. Our world is awash in technology and its many exciting opportunities. But as the saying goes, with knowledge comes great responsibility. Our daughter must behave and follow our wishes with this privilege, or it is gone..
In the article “Sound Advice on Managing the Media from Parents’ Choice,” at the Great Schools.org website, they list some helpful hints for successfully dealing with this issue. Advice ranges from time limits and place limits to parents going on these devices with their child and having some fun. I would like to hear from you and ask you how you handle this important issue in your home.