My daughters love my iPhone.
Which is why they rarely get to play on it. I can see the desire – the infatuation with it – etched in their expressions once they get their hands on it. It is not unlike the expression of addicts when they finally score their drug of choice.
I can also see the profound disappointment when I have to take it away followed by the pleas for “just one more minute!”
It is for this reason that my daughters do NOT have their own personal technology: no smart phones, no tablets, no computers. I know that I’m in the minority here, but I want my daughters experiencing the real world first. I want them using their imaginations and playing open-ended games. I want them to be bored – and to have to deal with it. I want them to develop relationship skills.
All those skills become much more difficult when you have technology.
I’m not only competing with the lure of technology but with other parents. Already my daughter’s peers (my children are 10, 8 and 5 years old) are loaded down with technology: Wii, Nintendo, PlayStation, iPhone, Droid, iPad, Kindle, Galaxy, MacBook and PC. The list is long and getting longer.
I don’t buy the arguments for giving children technology (mostly around having them fall behind – but anyone who has given an iPad to a three-year-old knows the learning curve is about one minute).
I’m concerned that children – who are still developing a worldview and still working out who they are and how the world around them works – are becoming addicted to technology.
I can see the effects already on their parents – my friends, family and colleagues. There are too many adults who can’t handle the responsibility of owning personal technology. Using technology as a crutch against loneliness, boredom, anxiety, and sadness. Look at how many adults can’t put down their technology (especially smart phones) when they know they should:
- Having lunch or dinner with other people
- At business meetings when they should be listening
- While driving
- While riding in an elevator
- While walking down the street
That’s why I really enjoyed the comedian Louis C.K.’s recent rant against smart phones for children on Conan. I think he’s dead-on when he talks about how smart phones have become a shield against dealing with every day challenges: like boredom, melancholy and sadness. It’s become too easy to escape into games, texts, emails, and social media.
Children need to deal with reality first. Maybe you don’t have to go to my extremes of an outright ban, but shouldn’t parents be putting more energy into limiting technology rather than encouraging it?
The best compliment I’ve ever gotten on my daughters was a neighbor saying that he admired how imaginative and creative my children were when playing on their own.
“Your kids could play all day with a paper clip,” he said.
Too me that’s a skill worth developing.
What about you? How do you handle technology and children? Do you think kids have too much access to technology?
Big Think’s post on Smart Phones and Louis C.K.