I felt the heat rise from my belly to my chest to my neck; it threatened to leap out of my mouth before I even fully recognized what I was seeing. The fury surprised me. And I contained it by pushing my fingertips into my temples and clenching my teeth together instead of screaming. It wasn’t some unusual or horrific act, but it was one more value shattered. My husband was letting my son play with our new iPad.
Now, I say “our” when I really mean “his,” my husband’s. He bought it for work, you see. And when the iPad3 arrived, we talked about making sure the kids didn’t get their hands on it. Not because of breaking it (Because I would laugh, laugh so loud!), but because at 3 and 5 years old they are too young to already stick their heads into the digital ground, ignoring all around them. I feel very strongly about this. And my husband agreed, wholeheartedly. Or so I thought.
Therefore, when I rounded the corner to see two heads bent over the rectangular screen, I reacted physically, actually shaking with rage. I felt betrayed by my husband and afraid of having a son addicted to pixels and slim electronic toys. It didn’t matter that they were using a Bob Books App for learning to read. I was just pissed that my little boy was touching that…that…THING!*
Totally illogical, I know. Especially because I spend much of my day either writing or posting or tweeting or emailing or scheduling those things. But it’s different with my kids, isn’t it? Last year, when this New York Times article about Waldorf schools and the Silicon Valley execs who send their children to them came out, my husband and I nodded our heads sagely. Yes, yes, we said. We laughed at books like Goodnight iPad, and promoted books like It’s a Book. Children will learn technology in all of three-and-a-half minutes when they need to, we said. And we still believe that. Enough with all the SMART boards and computers in Kindergarten and laptops for every six-year-old. Teach them the basics. Teach them to be good people. Give them opportunities to explore their worlds, not a filtered version of it.
And that’s part of my fear for my children. If they are engaging this early with technology, what will they miss? And I realized it’s because of the things I know I am missing because of technology and the frenetic pace it demands. I don’t want my kids to tweet their first home runs (Hang on, let me just tweet this! Then I’ll run the bases!), I want them to revel in it right there and then. I don’t want them to feel like they need to refresh a page over and over to see if someone is responding to that Facebook observation they made about that cute classmate at the pizza parlor. Because that’s not experiencing Life – it’s referring to Life, waiting to see if someone else validates it first.
I wrote about something similar a while ago. About being in an experience, not always worrying about recording it. And I think it’s related. But am I just projecting fears onto my kids? Will the next generation be better able to balance real life and on-line life? Will familiarity with technology actually make it less of a need, a desire? I hope so. I hope so because it’s clear that I can’t shelter them from the tentacles of technology at home or in school.
*It’s possible that I may be exaggerating my reaction somewhat. Possibly. I should also point out that I have made friends with that iPad now through Draw Something. But I use my husband’s account, so it’s not really me. Right?
Did I overreact? Or will we end up with a world of children who mumble at a device instead of make eye contact and smile?