Robert and I recently returned from a short vacation. We knew “everyone” had an iPad but had no idea the extent to which this modern miracle has truly become ubiquitous. On the plane, at the pool, even used as a camera–they’re everywhere!
Yes, they are everywhere, especially in the hands of very, very young children. Now I’m not anti-iPad, since my own husband is attached to his at all times. The digital age is in full force and there’s no turning back. As every new technology has advanced in decades past, we’ve wondered how we would adapt and how it would change us as a culture and certainly, the iPad (and iPhone) are no different. So I’m not against the iPad because it’s happening and will continue to happen. What does concern me, however, is when any object replaces an opportunity. Let me explain.
1) Missing an opportunity to learn Self-Regulation: So while on vacation, we were in a family friendly restaurant where just about every table had at least 2 children under the age of 5. Two families sat down at a large table and the mom announced, “Who wants coloring books? Who wants an ipad?” Of course, they all requested ipads and shockingly to us, they had an ipad for each of the 5 children. Robert then looked around the restaurant and noticed that every table with children had at least one ipad! We were in awe.
Self regulation is the biggest predictor of success in school. It’s the ability to control one’s impulses, i.e., follow directions, hands to yourself, all that good stuff. No child likes to wait for food, but learning to wait and interact at a table with others is a critical skill. (Have you noticed that many adults are losing this skill now? I know Robert and I are guilty of it, doing a quick google search while we wait for our dinner.) Does anyone remember eating at restaurants that didn’t even have kid’s placemats for coloring? I do! Somehow, we managed to survive peacefully until the food came.
2) Missing an opportunity for Parent-Child connection: So our trip took us on 2 flights each direction and without fail, on each of the 4 flights, at takeoff and landing, when the announcement was made to turn off electronic devices, there was crying, kicking and screaming. That’s right. No longer is the businessman in 4A refusing to turn off his laptop and stop working on his spreadsheets. No, the flight attendants and parents of this generation have a new problem altogether: Flight regulations cannot be relaxed for an angry child. Off means off. And off, in every instance I watched, meant tantrums. Again, I’m not anti-ipad, but hey, I think we have a problem here. These children need help with self-regulation. They need to be able to just sit and zone out. They need to learn to enjoy looking out the window at the billowy clouds and imagine shapes. They need to look at the maps in the back of the American Way magazine and imagine the places they could go.
So on one flight, the order to turn off electronics went out and this sweet child had a complete and utter meltdown. First, the flight attendant pleaded with her in a sing-song voice, “I’m sorry. The ipad goes bye-bye.” She just screamed louder. Finally, what calmed her down? Mom started talking to the child. That’s right, mom hadn’t spoken with her since the flight began. Mom started talking about clouds and how they carried rain and cast shadows. Then they looked at the shapes of the land below. The child giggled and squealed with delight as she saw one deep blue swimming pool, “I found purple, I found purple!” Mom pointed at the water below and asked if she supposed an alligator was in there. The little girl started talking about all the critters that could live there.
I will not judge you if you choose to dine in peace on occasion or help your child make it through a rough flight. Just also be sure you choose to notice the abundant opportunities out there for connecting with your child, wherever and whenever you can.
Here are a few engaging ideas we found on another blog:
1. Origami Fortune Tellers. Remember these? This is fun all the way around; fun to fold, fun to think of things to write in, and fun to try on everyone. Here’s a step by step tutorial–in case your a little rusty on your cootie-catcher skills.
2. Straw and Sugar Packet Tic Tac Toe. What a great idea for using your resources. This is a much better use for those fake sugar packets. 😉
3. Classic Straw-wrapper Worm. Wow your friends and family members with this trick, again and again.