Monday, October 18, 2010

Smart phone babes and toddlers

A recent article in the New York Times addresses the use of smart phone by 1, 2 and 3-year olds.

My husband got a smart phone a couple of weeks ago. Or rather, I bought it for him. I had promised him a storm chasers tour as a 40th birthday present. But he decided he’d rather have a piece of technology. He says this phone has made his life complete and he’s a better and a happier person. He insists I would be a better and a happier person if I had a smart phone too, which I doubt.

Given how much he treasures it, I expected he’d try to keep it away from River, who shows an interest and a propensity to figure out anything electronic. While he doesn’t allow River to manipulate it, he does use it to entertain him.

“I want cat!” River will call out, and Mark goes to an interactive kitty on the Droid, where River can pet it and make it speak.

Mark will lay on the couch and River presses in alongside him to watch the screen. One afternoon, when they were in this position for at least 40 minutes, I expressed concern that it seemed like a lot of screen time. Mark said he was watching YouTube videos of things that interested River, like dolphins and whales.

Perhaps it is a good thing to have immediate access to vivid real-life images. When I come across an unfamiliar word or term in a book, it’s a huge help to be able to google it and see a photo. But I also think that interacting with the real world is equally, perhaps more, important, and Mark tends to be impatient when River is entranced with a flower, a tree or a storefront window while on a stroll.

If you have a smartphone, do you let your kids use it? What do you think is the right balance of teaching technology and making sure kids are engaged with the world?

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