Monday, March 14, 2011

The Technological Toddler

On Saturday morning my family made our annual pilgrimage to Ted's parents house in Miami.  They live in an amazing condominium complex with two beautiful pools, a well stocked gym, tennis courts, and a putting range.  I would happily spend every weekend here, if it were not for the five-plus hour flight from SFO to Miami International.  Today our carry-on luggage consisted of, but was not limited to, the following:
  1. A reusable grocery bag with: bananas, apples, crackers, granola bars, goldfish (not the live kind), ultra hippie pea pods, fruit snacks, and bottles of water.
  2. A child's size pink butterfly backpack containing: crayons, pens, colored pencils, paper, coloring books, sticker books, story books, a mini-wind-up-train set, magnetic drawing boards, and a quart sized plastic zip-lock bag filled with three-inch-high Disney princess dolls.
  3. My own carry-on with: iPhone, personal laptop computer, and portable DVD player with six different viewing options.
  4. Ted's carry-on included: iPod Touch, iPad, and a Kindle.
We like to travel prepared for a mild to medium sized natural disaster.

Since our Virgin America flight also had individual touch-screen television monitors for each seat, with a live feed from both Niceklodeon and the Disney Channel, the girls spent the vast majority of the flight with their eyes glued to a backlit screen. I was only slightly surprised when I discovered that Maisy, who is not yet two, knew how to not only unlock the the iPad screen, but how to enter my husband's four digit security code.

Sure, these various digital devices accomplish the goals I set for them.  The children were relatively well behaved during the entire air experience.  Although neither even pretended to nap, neither child threw a tantrum, threw food across the aisles, nor repeatedly kicked the seatbacks of the elderly couple sitting in front of us.  However, is all of this technology keeping them from realizing their true potentials as child musical prodigies or an Olympic athletes?

The information avaliable about technology and toddlers is very contradictory.  On one hand in 2008 the English goverment established their Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum that made it mandatory that preschools expose toddlers and preschoolers to a variety of technology.  For example, by 40 months of age children should "Complete a simple program on a computer. Use ICT to perform simple functions such as selecting a channel on the TV remote control. Use a mouse and keyboard to interact with age-appropriate computer software."  The reasoning behind this initiative was to aptly prepare all preschoolers for the new technology laden educational system.

According to The Times, these are the skills preschools and daycares must be teaching at specific age groups (click here to read the atricle):
The Government’s computer literacy goals for children aged 22-36 months 
  • Acquire basic skills in turning on and operating some ICT equipment
  • Talk with carer about what it does, what they can do with it and how to use it safely 
  • Use the photocopier to copy their own pictures and other equipment such as karaoke machines
Children aged 30-50 months
  • Know how to operate simple equipment
Children aged 40-60 months
  • Complete a simple computer program
  • Use ICT to perform simple functions, such as selecting a channel on TV remote control 
  • Use a mouse and keyboard to interact with age-appropriate computer software 
  • Find out about and identify the uses of everyday information and communication technology and use it together with programmable toys to support learning. Click on icons to cause things to happen in a computer program
Although both my 23-month-old and my 48-month-old can operate a simple iPad program (Elana's favorite is Angry Birds), neither have ever used, nor seen, a photocopier or karaoke machine. 

Then, on the other hand, there is the American Academy of Pediatrics that recommends no screen time for children under the age of two.  Unfortunately for many of us, screen time consists of: television, computers, laptops, iPads, iPods, and iPhones.  At best, studies have found that the use of these types of equipment has no positive benefits for young children.  At worst, these studies have found that it can stunt language acquisition and lead to childhood obesity. 

So what is a parent to do?  Should I get all Tiger Mother on my brood's technology deficient asses, or ban all equipment and toys that contain video monitors?

With the issue of technology, I must default to my standard parenting philosophy- moderation.  Yes, daily screen time is not the ideal for toddlers, but a little here and there may help to create a more happy and relaxed mother.  And, a happy mother means a happy home!

Oh, and, as always, travel days are free-for-all's.  Sugary treats, overly-indulgent parenting, and the excessive use of all technology available is not only allowed, it's recommended.


  1. Fruit Ninja App..another good "learning" device.

  2. Well I figure if I am going to Let my cats play with the iPad cat toy apps I should let the kids play with the iPad too . Mostly they watch sexist old Tv shows like "I dream of Genie". It's always fun to see the reactions to this on other Mom's faces ....they must be thinking ". What kind lesbian lets her girls watch THAT show? ". LOL