My 4YO son loves the iPad. LOVES.
And that’s why he has only had it once in the past four months.
It now lives on top of a cupboard in my bedroom where it cannot be seen, where it cannot cause fights, where it cannot tempt him with its never-ending possibilities.
And he’s a happier kid because of it.
At just 18 months his chubby fingers could already expertly navigate my iPhone. Other adults were amazed by the nimble way he’d play puzzle games – putting the pieces in the right place without, it seemed, time to even look at them first.
But when we bought the iPad he thought it was for him. As he grew older he started to ask for it almost every day – sometimes more than once. We didn’t let him have it often but when we did it would end in a fight. It would end in tears.
Have you ever heard a child say “but the game isn’t finished!” when you try to leave a playground or friend’s house? That’s the problem with the iPad – the game never finishes. It is quicksand for the mind.
So that’s why I took it off him. It’s now for very special occasions only.
But this is why I wonder if I should give it back …
He starts school next year and the school is one of many in Australia to have an iPad program. It’s not for the prep students, which he’ll be, but the use of technology in the classroom is increasing at incredible rates. It won’t be long before his computer skills will be called on.
I don’t want to disadvantage him. I don’t want him to be ill-prepared for the digital world in which we now live. I don’t want him to struggle later to acquire skills that others have grown up with.
So what do I do?
The real problem with the choice I’m faced with (and obviously there are many other parents in the same situation) is that there isn’t a lot of research yet to help me make an informed decision.
The technology is still in its infancy. The iPad only came out in 2010 (coincidentally, the same year my son did!). If there are negative long-term effects on the brain, the eyes or any other aspect of a child’s development then we won’t hear about them for a while yet.
So, do I continue to hide the iPad? Do I let him be the child I was? One that reads from books, plays with blocks and climbs trees? One that creates fun where, to an adult, it looks like none exists? (At the moment he is outside, sitting on chairs under our clothesline – flying his helicopter!)
Or do I let him have it back? Do I let him fine-tune the skills that no doubt he’ll need to draw on in his future? Even though I know my attempts to moderate his use will mean a fight? Even though I have no idea what the long-term effects of his use might be?
Tough one. What do you reckon?
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