Rage Against the iPad

Luddites Unite!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.

via Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

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?

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About That Unique* Weblog

Adjusting to the car culture, dealing with leaving a career I love, and spouting off along the way.
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80 Responses to Rage Against the iPad

  1. Emily says:

    I don’t think you were overreacting! My husband and I took our girls to Tokyo Disneyland last weekend and I couldn’t get over how many kids were playing on their iPads, etc., while waiting in lines for the rides. Sometimes a line would come to a complete stop, too, just because some kid toward the front failed to notice everyone moving around him. It was sad! I mean, I understand that technology is going to be an important part of my girls’ lives and I want them to understand how to use it, but I also want them to really *experience* the world around them…even in moments of boredom.

    This was a great post!

    • That’s what I’m afraid of. If adults will sit at a red light to check email/text/twitter/fb (and let it go green then red again), what will our kids miss out on? I initially looked for an image from either Minority Report or The Matrix – of people hooked up to THE HIVE or whatnot. But I’m hoping that the Don’t Panic image is more true to life. 🙂

  2. Lottie Nevin says:

    Aw!! I don’t know, this is a tough call! I have moments of getting very uptight about all of this stuff and then I find myself, how ever much I hate it, getting sucked deeper and deeper into it. For example, it occured to me last night, that I’ve never had a hand written ‘Love Letter’ from my husband, and vice versa. All of our communications when we are away from each other, is done on-line via skype, email, or on the mobile, calls/sms. I think that’s really sad because at the end of the day, there is nothing nicer to remember each other by than a letter/note/card written in the hand of someone you love.

    • Yes! And somehow, printing it out isn’t quite the same thing… 🙂 I’m torn as well, especially because I never would have met my husband without computers!

      • Lottie Nevin says:

        Well there you go!! and how wonderful that through all of that, you two lovebirds met 🙂
        Because of my ‘Love letters’ thoughts, I decided to write a short but sweet love letter to my husband today whilst I was on the beach. He’s back in Jakarta, but I’ve stayed on here in Bali which is unusual. Even writing loving nonsense in the sand doesn’t count! I loved your post and it’s very thought provoking, thank you.

  3. mondayswithmac says:

    If you feel strongly about it then you didn’t overreact. That’s the beauty of being a parent – you get to decide what is OK and not OK for your child. For now anyway 😉

  4. Emily says:

    Good points to ponder. See you on Draw Something!

  5. christina says:

    oh i totally feel what you’re saying. and, really, this is how i feel about of lot of materialistic things when it comes to Lovie.

  6. Danielle says:

    I totally feel like I sometimes miss out on moments because I feel I need to tweet them or post them on FB. You make a really good point!

    • I’ve had to stop myself sometimes! Instead of thinking: How cute that is! I think: How cute that would be tweeted! It’s important to remember that tweets often get by-passed and than looked at for three seconds, if that. Sigh.

  7. Anna says:

    I am so strict about my kids’ screen time, and glad to be that way – they are so creative, love to play outdoors, etc. My husband also let them play with the iPad, but our son (age 2) quickly b/c so obsessed we had to put the iPad in “Time Out,” and honestly I am happy with it that way. I think when they’re young it’s hard for them to want to do anything else when given the screen option. When they’re older it’s easier to explain the idea of limited screen time, something I as an adult still need to figure out, too. 🙂

    • They do get crazy, don’t they? My kids were having tantrums about tv time, so I cut it down to a 12 minute show in the AM and a 12 minute show while I made dinner. Gotta love On Demand Sprout!

  8. Oh, I know this struggle all too well! I hate the zombie that any kind of screen interfacing turns my son into. I have a gut level aversion to all this screen time in general (for adults as well and myself included). I’ve heard that facebook is addictive as some drugs! (no source for that though) All that said, I’ve kind of had to give in to this a little bit because the occassional Dora the Explorer does let me make dinner sometimes and some of the games we have on the iphone end up being educational. I wrote a post similar to this several weeks back and I was very reassured by everyone’s comments in that they all seemed to be having similar struggles. Great post!

    • I have to admit, I’m encouraged when the kids interact with Dora or other characters. At least I know they are actively listening. I guess that’s the whole point – despite adults making fun of the style. 🙂

  9. I have very mixed feelings on this. I’ll let you know when I get my tablet/ipone/laptop back and reply 🙂

    • Teehee. I’ll admit to being thrilled when the kids will sit still for Doc Mcstuffins or whichever show entices them for 12 or 20 minutes…while I feed my own addiction. I don’t know why I feel like a solo device is so much more alienating. I think I need a margarita to figure it out. (Oh! The irony!)

  10. How often do your kids see you using these things? How can you say no to them, especially at such a young age, when they see you sitting at the computer or playing with the iPad? It’s the example of your first commenter, Emily, where I draw the line. Should kids be playing with an iPad in a line at Disneyland? I don’t think so. But your kids are growing up in a different time than you did. What you miss they will not miss, they won’t even know what you’re talking about. Like too much chocolate, set limits. Technology in every imaginable guise is here to stay. The best part of your story is that you are a great mom who wants her kids to be aware, communicative people. And so they will, by your fine example.

    • I know that’s true. But I worry about the solo aspect of the devices. I wish I had played stickball in the street – but I did play capture the flag and sardines and freeze tag all summer. Do kids do those things anymore? I’m sure they do. Mine are so young now that I can control their techno intake, but later? No way! I won’t even understand it – if they are lucky. 🙂

  11. sisterhoodofthesensiblemoms says:

    My daughters are 11 and 13. I don’t have set time limits on screen time. I’ve tried to teach them when it is appropriate to delve into their technology. I figure I can’t stem the tide, but I can teach them when and how to use it. I try to encourage them to “be in the moment.” (Something I’m not that good at, so my kids are keeping me honest. Gotta lead by example.) On the way home from school in the car? No, that is time for us to catch up. In the car on a six hour trip? Yes!
    Also “No’s” to standing in line and when we are out at restaurants. And NEVER at the dinner table.

    I think my teen might be less obsessed than I am with social media. Last night, I had a dream. And in that dream I was constructing a status update about what I was doing in the dream. I kid you not. Maybe I need some time limits? Ellen
    (I think the graphic fit in perfectly here. (:)

    • sisterhoodofthesensiblemoms says:

      Just to let you know, this thing: (:) was supposed to be a smiley face. (: It looked a little creepy, so I wanted to clarify. lol

    • I think that’s what set me off – that we had agreed on the appropriateness of the iPad at their ages, but then…it was too tempting! And I get it. The dinner table bothers me too. My husband reads the “paper” on his Kindle in the AM. To me, it IS different from a paper paper. I don’t know, maybe it’s not!

  12. Jamie says:

    I think the fact that you are aware of the pitfall means that you’re going to be pretty likely to kick them out of the house to play when the iPad gets too friendly with them, to keep an eye on what they’re doing on the web, and to spend time with them in a non-tech way. We can’t avoid technology, but we can teach that it’s a tool, not an idol.

  13. I never want my daughter to be as addicted to the Internet and social media as I am. And yes, it’s an addiction – I fully recognize this. I check my e-mail first thing every morning to look at blog comments and Twitter and FB mentions first thing every morning, just like drug addicts take a hit every day upon waking. And it’s also interfered with my ability to focus at work and at home. So, I hope you’re right about the next generation better managing their on-and-offline lives – because God knows I certainly haven’t struck such a balance. I don’t smoke, don’t drink [too much], don’t do drugs, and am way too tired to be addicted to sex. But the Internet is my vice.

    • Just found this in Spam. What were you doing in Spam?

      Thanks for acknowledging it. I know it’s an addiction too – and I justify it because it’s now part of the work I do. Sometimes I think I should go cold turkey, because really, will two weeks without my musings hurt anyone? Nope! Especially not me!

  14. If we’re good parents we’re monitoring their use. We see what they look at and we limit the time they use it.

  15. I tried to keep the 6 year old away from electronic media and did a good job but was completely undermined by grandparents on both sides handing out their iPhones and passing around iPads. I could have shot them. I just stare and smile now when they complain that K spends their entire visit buried in the iPad.

  16. Well, every child and every family is different. Both of my kids had access to a computer by age 5; they loved the games we played with them on it and later they enjoyed playing/learning/exploring/doing homework/etc. on their own. They aren’t ‘addicted’ now and they never were.
    It’s funny, I keep a candy bowl and snack jar in our home, and I have since the kids were very small. My kids never felt the need to eat every piece of candy in the bowl or every snack in the jar; it was there, they could have it, but it wasn’t compelling for them when they were young and it isn’t now. Meanwhile, some of their young friends came over who didn’t have the same setup in their homes; guess what? Those kids made it a mission to empty the bowl and deplete the snacks. Why? I assume because at home those items were ‘forbidden’ or perhaps ‘denied.’ I could be wrong, but I think electronic devices could kinda go the same way. My opinion.

    • I think the handheld items give me more of a shiver than the desktop computer. Somehow the ability to walk around and choose to check out in the midst of activity makes it more harsh to me.

      And I agree with you about the denial affecting the desire – but my sisters and I both had no typically American treats (hostess cupcakes, twinkles, sugared cereals) growing up, and only one of us (that would be me!) would gorge when over at a friend’s house! I think that as with any addiction, it’s a combination of genetics and availability.

      Thank you for your input!

  17. Mayor Gia says:

    Hmmm…dunno if you overreacted. I think it’s true that you have to be careful these days not to let kids get too obsessed with the digital world instead of the real world.

    • I’m sure I did overreact, but I don’t think I’m wrong at the core. Allowing “fun” to be accessed through a device means you’ve already had it filtered by electronics, investors, developers, advertisers…but maybe I’m just hopelessly cynical. It’s a whirling dervish of dismay!

  18. Great post. I wrote about something similar to this recently. A post called “The Tiny Thumb Theory.” I didn’t grow up with ipads or smart phones. I went outside and played and imagined and experienced. I just worry that kids today won’t get those wonderful experiences if their eyes are glued to a screen. I don’t think you overreacted, and I definitely admire your position on the subject. I was wondering if I was the only one who still felt this way.

  19. raisingivy says:

    Your kids are too young to be looking at screens of any sort. Period. But that’s coming from a Montessori mama who killed her tv a decade ago, so what do I know? Wonderful, evocative post as always.

    • I’ll tell you, I’m tempted. And I know some people who have gotten rid of TV, but most of them use their computers to Netflix shows for both themselves and their kids. It’s different – less GOTTA HAVE IT NOW sort of a feeling. But it’s also the same…in the end. My ambivalence comes from my own unwillingness. I know that. Is acceptance the first step?

  20. I think that the way of the world is moving toward technology, so being savy about it is probably a good thing. Is it right? Who is to say. Paying athletes millions and teachers a paltry minimum wage isn’t. I still like the weekly no electronics rule, but I’m in IT so that ends up impractical.

    Good luck.

    WG

    • I agree that they’ll need to be savvy. I just think that they’ll pick it up in ten minutes when they need to (like around ten years old?). But yes, it’s impractical when parents are a part of it so deeply.

  21. I have a little guy and I cringed a lot when he could play Angry Birds before he learned to read—so not my thing. I feel even more hypocritical, because the other kids can use the tech for school and fun (within limits) so it makes it hard to keep it off-limits to him. Great piece and love that the graphic worked here. Erin

    • I always go to the extreme – like early on-set carpal tunnel syndrome. Or bad eyesight at ten years old. Or hunched over shoulders at nine. And thanks for bringing me to the graphic! Our public library used it on their FB after seeing it on my wall. Making the rounds, I guess. 🙂

  22. Kerstin says:

    I am with you on this one. My kids do have some electronic gadgets (they have an ipod with limited-to-some-music-listening access during the week and a little bit of playing on the weekend), but I think they are exposed enough to those things at school. It is a new way of learning, which is fine, because that’s how the world works now, but I think it’s just as important to still know the other things like playing outside in the mud, holding a book in your hands or volunteering somewhere.

    • That’s the thing. The schools here are all about telling us they have SMART boards and computers and so on and so forth. But I want my kids to learn how to write and interact and play without limits. Sigh.

  23. I feel you! It occurred to me that we spend so much time with technology that we are missing the important bits and pieces of life…

  24. TriGirl says:

    I see kids everyday that have full on tantrums when they can’t play with their parents’ smart phones. So I think there is a legitimate concern. Personally, I started to panic the other night when my husband was messing with our router and we kept losing our internet connection. I knew I was being crazy and it didn’t feel good.

  25. Um, my toddler (2 years 4 months) have been hanging out with my iPad for a year. However, he has barely looked at it the past 2 weeks. See, they go through phases, just like we do. He got bored of it just like I thought he would. He would occasionally pull up a game, or watch something on it, but I see that he’s now playing with his stuff/ toys a lot more.

    It’s inevitable that his generation will be sucked into technology, that’s just the way the world is right now. I say yes, restrict and supervise access, but know that it’s futile to prevent them from engaging with it in some fashion.

  26. You are entitled to your beliefs and you are entitled to expect that if your husband says he agrees with them, he will not change the rules midstream without a conversation – so I don’t blame you one bit for being angry. I think every parent has to decide for his or her own children what the tech rules of the house are. You know wha’ts best for your kids and what you want for them. If your rule is no tech, then no tech!

    In our house, my son plays with my iPhone. Part of it is selfish because it lets me do what I need to do and he is safely occupied. However, I am the one who gets his apps, so I have some control there. When he asks me to play the game for him too much (because it’s too hard and he’s getting frustrated), I use that as a moment to remind him practice helps and if he’s frustrated he can take a break. We also use some educational apps/games, so there’s some value. And I let him play Angry Birds because it’s fun.

    We also have the Wii and he has a Leapster for car rides. He plays with them full-force for a little while, then it’s back to Legos and cars and blocks. Whatever he’s into he’s INTO. Until he’s not. That’s my 2 cents! Sorry for the comment novel.

    • Thank you for affirming the actual reason for my anger – the broken agreement! I use television almost everyday as a way to get dinner done or to get last minute tasks done on the computer. I really like your method of handling the frustration – “I use that as a moment to remind him practice helps and if he’s frustrated he can take a break.” That’s a perfect response!

  27. Lenore Diane says:

    I have an addictive personality, and I know the more gadgets I have access to – the greater the risk of getting addicted to such gadgets. As a result, we have few gadgets – no video games, no smart phones, no iPads or tablets. The boys get excited when they go to a house with gadgets, but when they come home it is a non-gadget environment. While they have played PBS Kids on the computer – they do not play daily, weekly or even monthly. Eye contact is big in this house… unless we’re cranky and yelling from room to room. (smile)

  28. I’m a proponent for technology in early education. But I don’t think it should take the place of anything. It should be integrated into learning, used as tools. Also, I think a focus could shift to kids learning technology language, or programming. Language learning comes easy in the early years. Why not add computer languages? That being said, my kids were Montessori kids until recently and Montessori circles are in a state of controversy over technology. So, I understand your reaction completely. I, too, used to cringe at young children being nose-down in a device. The key, I think, is kids learning media literacy/social etiquette online. That can’t begin soon enough. Just like in school they learn social graces (hopefully), they need to learn it online. In those lessons, they can learn balance…when is it necessary to tweet, or should one stay in the moment. These are great questions and concerns you have and show you are a great mom.

    • Absolutely, I think the social media etiquette lessons need to be learned by many people. Many! I wonder, though, if by giving them such comfort and normalcy with devices, if we’re not encouraging them to be free-and-easy instead of careful and/or etiquette-conscious. Add it to my list of anxieties!

  29. Delilah says:

    I gave up the fight long ago. My kids are techno kids. The 11 year old saved his money and bought his own ipod touch. The 7 year old almost has enough saved to buy her own ipod touch but in the meantime she likes to play games on mine and Husband’s iPhones. Same with the 4 year old, he’s really obsessed with the preschool games on the iPhone. Heck, even the 1.5 year old likes to watch Curious George on Netflix on my phone. Yes, I gave up the fight. Sigh…

    • I like that you had them take actual ownership of the devices in saving up for them. That helps, I think. We don’t have iPhones, so at least that helps us somewhat with the constancy of it.

  30. mamamash says:

    We reserve awesome things like the iPad for emergencies. Say, the 13th hour of a 14-hour car ride. Or potty training. But we do let our kiddo use it! We let him watch a bit of tv now as well. I think “everything in moderation” is sort of our parenting philosophy. That said, I think if as a couple you make a parenting decision together, it’s pretty crappy if one parent goes against it. Definitely worth a discussion.

  31. I completely agree! Although I have a 1YO, and I have no idea what I will say once he gets old enough to bug the crap out of me and I will possibly just want to stick an electronic device in his hands and make him shut up…this is exactly how I feel about the subject. I hate it when families go out to dinner and all of their heads are down, staring at their cell phones. That’s just NOT a family dinner. But then…to each his own.

  32. Stacey says:

    I completely agree with every word. It’s really hard. My husband and I spend a lot of time reading articles or blog posts, and I spend a lot of time writing (which you would never guess by my post frequency!), but it makes me very uncomfortable for the boys to be playing games on electronic devices. We do not let the boys play any games on the ipad or ipod touch. But their grandparents got them leapsters and innotabs, which are basically the same thing. I do not encourage them to play with them, and I also limit the time, but I still feel like we’re clinging to the top of a slippery slope. And I’m definitely not okay with kids playing video games at dinner or any other family event.

    • Our dinner table has way too much STUFF on it in general. I decided this morning to clear it of everything except what must be there. Maybe a potted plant as well. Thanks for the encouraging words. 🙂

  33. Same sentiments around here. My husband and I have had that talk too and agreed that technology should be VERY limited for our kids. But I still find myself downloading educational apps on my Kindle Fire for my toddler. And I’ve given my 7 year old my OLD laptop where she can practice typing/keyboarding. And I let her play my Cake Mania on it. BUT I time them and they don’t spend all day on it. And if the computer or tablet causes them to ignore us (or any person), then that electronic gets turned off, immediately! Am I wrong to do this?

    I have the same fears as you. But I also want my kids to be up to par with their generation when the time comes for them to compete in the real world. And I do my best to make sure that they only access content that are educational and I KNOW the content of. I even use paid apps so that there are NO ads!

    Seriously, I could go on and on about this. You’ve hit my conscience. I’ll have to rethink my approach on technology when it comes to my kids. I might have to set a schedule for it in their homeschool day. Thanks. I needed the wake up call.

  34. mannahattamamma says:

    A friend of mine a few years back gave her then 4th grader a gameboy, although she is violently against such items. She said the only reason she gave it to him is so she’d have something to take away when he needed “a consequence” for bad behavior. Kind of cracked me up. I go through this fight – I mean discussion – with my husband all the time. I say limit screen time, period. He says, not all screen time is the same. A language program or chess on the screen isn’t the same as playing a computer online multi-player game; and doing a music program like Sibelius (lets you write music) isn’t the same as angry birds. Sometimes I think he’s right (ARGH) and sometimes I think nah…screen’s a screen. BUT husband and I are both on computers all the damn time – way too much – and so it’s hard to be totally vigilant when I’m aware of my own little social media habits (okay HUGE addictions). So I don’t ahve any answers other than that yes, kids go through phases – your ipad is a novelty, new, sparkly-and-shiny…but in a few weeks, it’ll be blocks and legos again. I thnk what matters (or so I tell myself) is that you’re aware of what they’re doing, that you make sure as in all things, it’s a balanced diet of being bored (and thus inventing stuff), being outside, being in a book… Balance. Yeah. How come that’s so easy to say and hard to do?

    • I am with you. I don’t necessary think a screen is a screen. But I do think that there’s a difference between being alone with a book, your thoughts, a pen and paper, blocks…and being alone with a device. It’s the luddite in me, but I do think it’s different. I know you’re right about their getting bored eventually. I hope so!

  35. i know what you mean, but I also know that sometimes there are valuable tools there, too. My son learned the alphabet song after hearing/watching it twice on my iphone thru an app. And he’s learned about all kinds of animals thru an app my wife uses. But I agree that it irks me when I see people plop their kids in front of the ipad while at a restaurant and let an episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse rip while they eat. Then again, maybe I’m just jealous that they get to eat in peace.

    • I know that’s true. The Bob app is actually really cool. And I’m reviewing another app (how ironic!) now for the iPad. I just don’t like that it’s ALREADY something to lean on, you know? Getting bored and dealing with it is a skill that has to be learned through experience. Whatever happened to searching for license plates from all 50 states on a road trip?

  36. TheJackB says:

    I love the Smartboards, I really do. But I have made a point to make sure that my kids read real books. But I have to admit that I love my Kindle. Was surprised to discover that, but it has been great,

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  38. “Because that’s not experiencing Life – it’s referring to Life, waiting to see if someone else validates it first.”

    This was your best argument for turning off the electronic devices. I think it rang true with me because I am a person who seeks validation on so many levels! Like my life might not be okay – let me check what everyone else says about it first. How sad is that???

    My 7-yr-old loves-loves-loves books, of which I am eternally grateful, because I always wondered what I would do with a child who didn’t enjoy reading. It’s funny though — she will play games on my iPod, but I cannot get her to try an eBook for anything. It’s got to be the “real thing” for her. She also still plays with her My Little Ponies & Littlest Pet Shop toys, too. And she draws & colors ALL.THE.TIME. So maybe she has reached a decent balance of physical versus digital? That’s what I’m hoping anyway (fingers cramped from being crossed so dang hard!).

    • Lately, my kids have been pretty uninterested in the iPad – which is ironic considering that now I’m supposed to be reviewing an app for kids! Funny how it turned around pretty quickly.

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