December 1, 2011

Wired Kids

Last night after I got home from work, Owen begged me to open up my Mac and let him type. He knows how to spell his own name and loves to see it on the screen. That and the neighbor's cat's name (JJ). Of course Mia jumped on the bandwagon and wanted Beth's computer so she could type in "fancy writing."

I set them up, walked into the kitchen, then looked over my shoulder and saw what it must look like for an hour or so in our house every night after the kids go to bed. Or what it would look like if Beth and I were much tinier people.

Mia's and Owen both have iPods. To be fair, they're both cast-offs from me. Owen has my third generation classic iPod that he listens to Superman stories on every night. Mia has my iPod Touch which I replaced with my current iPhone. She listens to Ramona stories and Glee songs every night and checks the weather first thing every morning. I realize it's pretty ridiculous to have two kids with high-caliber gadgets but they'd just be sitting in a drawer otherwise.

But now Mia wants a Kindle for Christmas and it's obvious that we're going to be able to keep the kids away from computers and anything else with a screen only so much longer. I know screens are the new paper and there's no stopping that particular train but the purist in me wants to hold off just a while longer.

I guess it's easy to blame technology for, well, everything, but good parenting can actually head off some of the negative, unintended consequences of that technology. Just the other night as I was putting Owen to bed, he wanted to see a picture of Lady Gaga and some cool drum solos. With a few swipes of a finger, we saw Gaga, watched a 1976 Phil Collins drum solo and saw Mike Portnoy play his Boba Fett drums. Pretty amazing.

What do you think? Are kids exposed to too much technology too young? Or is it an inevitability that we're just going to have to live with.

Posted by Chris at December 1, 2011 8:10 AM

I'm torn in the same way; we bought my four year old his own tablet so he could have learning to read programs and goodnight stories. I don't necessarily like that at this young age, he can successfully maneuver his way through Angry Birds on multiple platforms. But you're probably right that it's an inevitability we have to accept. But I won't ever stop thinking about how I didn't even own a computer until 1997 when I was first going to college. And our children were born into a world where this technology was all just a given.

Posted by: Claire at December 1, 2011 8:26 AM

I'm the techie in my house. I'm also the one who pushes for non-technical games and activities for my kids. I think those things are related.

I know that they will spend all of their adult lives using technology. There's no rush. I think of technology as the virtual representation of real life, so I want them to experience real life as a base before they use technology.

People who are good at technology jobs don't use tools, programs, or apps without knowing how they work. Those people are called "users". The people who are good at tech know how and why the tools they use, work. And they are the ones who fix, improve, and streamline the world's technology. I guess I just don't want to create a bunch of dumb, users. Wow, that's pretty nerdy.

Posted by: Brad at December 1, 2011 9:38 AM

I think it is an inevitability...however, I still push books with pages that are made from paper! We monitor the amount of technology she's getting harder now that she's getting exposed to it at school...she's interested in being on the computer. Not that it's a problem...just means I'll have to share or buy her one of her own! ;-)

Posted by: cyndy at December 1, 2011 9:46 AM

Not to get off subject, but when are you gonna post a pic of JJ with the kids??

Posted by: Christine at December 1, 2011 9:52 AM

All the kids have ipod touches and they will soon be sharing my wife's older imac 24". We are pretty strict on how much time they can spend on them.

If Owen likes drum solos, check this one out It is one of the most amazing that I have seen.

Posted by: Rex at December 1, 2011 11:18 AM

I think it is a loosing battle and on a big level, I feel that those that aren't techie have a disadvantage in many professions. As long as you monitor it and don't let them use it constantly, I don't see a problem.

You have very creative, imaginative kids and I doubt that will change with technology.

My hubby is very techie. We have 3 computers, an iPad, 3 or 4 ipods, and itouch and 2 iphones. We will probably get another ipad in a year as hubby doesn't like to share his.

Our son is 16 and I keep waiting for him to get a tad techie. He rarely uses the thing and has to be pushed and prodded to type anything. Yet, he loves to surf for videos and things that interest him.

I feel it is natural for Owen and Mia to want to utilize these gadgets as they see you and Beth on them regularly. My husband reads most of his books on the ipad. I like books and haven't even tried this yet as it seems so odd to me.

Posted by: One Mom's Opinion at December 1, 2011 11:39 AM

It is actually a complicated issue. My aunt is a very, very dedicated teacher and we talked about this recently as I was concerned as well as a parent about how much is too much too soon. Obviously there are some very cool things on the web and it can be such a valuable tool. But she told me that in her circle and what studies have found is that children have no idea how to write a complete paragraph. They also do not read complete paragraphs, they are skimmers and looking to "click, click" They said that the rapid stimulas that the brain receives from the computer is so vastly different than the stimulas in the classroom that over exposure to the screen can hinder their ability to function and process information from a teacher. My kids love the computer, so I give them 30-45 min. to fiddle. If they just want to type or write a story then they can have more time, but hey, I am a little older, I still prefer to see them read actual books, ride actual bikes, and play actual board games.

Posted by: Shannon at December 1, 2011 12:28 PM

my kids are 5 and 8. they each have a hand-me-down ipod. they also each have a fake facebook account on which they play games. time limited.

my 5yo is on the Wii right now. hard to complain because when he comes upstairs, he's all sweaty from playing so hard.

my 8yo writes stories. they both play in Paint.

My 5yo is music obsessed and has his own iTunes account. what boggled my mind is that just by watching his dad, he learned how to google a song, find out what album it was on, and cut and paste the album art into iTunes.

i think you're right that the technology is just a part of life for them. the other day my 5yo wanted to know how old Barbra Streisand was. less than a minute later i had used my iphone to get to wikipedia to get the answer for him. when we were kids that would not have been an option.

we try to balance the tech side with real books, real hands on crafts, and just real, hands on TIME with them.

Posted by: chrissie at December 1, 2011 2:16 PM

For the kids that do nothing but gaming, yes there is an issue. But books and music, I think are fine :) the video game kids of the 90s are adult video game guys now. Sad.

Posted by: niki at December 1, 2011 2:23 PM

As an adult who owns very little of this type of thing (never even held an iPhone, iPad or iPod in my hand, let alone used one; no "tablets" or mp3 players), my daughters (now almost 10 and 7.5) are pretty much immune. They've never owned (or asked for) any kind of gaming system (Wii, Playstation, DS... again, things I've never even touched) and just don't seem interested. I do use a computer for work (and entertainment) every day, and am pretty savvy despite what you might think, so the girls know how to "use" a computer, can find stuff on YouTube, find "their" game sites (naff, girly games involving cupcakes, princesses and unicorns mainly), type e-mails (slowly), etc. I'm not hiding them from technology, we're just a) way too poor to be able to afford anything and b) just not really that interested anyway.
Kids get into technology when they have parents into technology. This house has one computer (my laptop), one mobile phone, a TV and a DVD player, and that's it.
Suits us fine.
And no, none of us (myself included) has asked for a Kindle - my daughters almost certainly don't even know what that is! It's all Lego, Zooble, music CDs (yes, still CDs) here!

Posted by: Kirsty at December 1, 2011 3:07 PM

My kids (now both high school age) had pretty much unfettered access to computers since they were old enough to manipulate the mouse / trackball. It doesn't seem to have done them any harm. They are both getting Kindles for Christmas. It's my experience that the kids whose parents try to restrict access are the ones who get obsessed about it. The kids who see computers and Internet as just a part of their life seem to self-regulate their usage without a lot of help from parents.

Posted by: COD at December 1, 2011 3:19 PM

I think in our world? It makes sense for kids to learn to use them young. This is an electronic age. It just is. My kids have iTouch's. They share an iPad...because my mom is into spoiling grandkids. And well, my oldest is getting a Kindle for her tenth birthday next week. Which means my seven year old will have one before too long.

I don't really think it takes away from anything.

Posted by: Issa at December 1, 2011 5:35 PM

I'm thankful that as new technology hit it was age appropriate for my son so I never had to worry about what was too much!

Posted by: NancyB at December 1, 2011 10:56 PM