For some toddlers today the venerable "toys of choice" are not dolls or blocks, but iPhones. Experts worry their development is hampered by this "screen time." I'm inclined to argue every generation has its vices and parents need to parent.
Touchscreens and ultra-portable communication devices are the inevitable future, you see, and as long as little Susie isn't staring into a screen for six hours at a time like a little pink zombie, what's the harm in her becoming acclimated with the tools she'll be immersed in when she's older?
But lest you be distracted from the research by my unhinged ranting, here's what's happening with the toddler sect today, according to a series of interviews on toddlers and iPhone usage in the New York Times:
Natasha Sykes, a mother of two in Atlanta, remembers the first time her daughter, Kelsey, now 3 1/2 but then barely 2 years old, held her husband's iPhone. "She pressed the button and it lit up. I just remember her eyes. It was like ‘Whoa!'" [...] Kelsey would ask for [the iPhone]. Then she'd cry for it. "It was like she'd always want the phone," Ms. Sykes said. After a six-hour search one day, she and her husband found the iPhone tucked away under Kelsey's bed. They laughed. But they also felt vague concern. Kelsey, and her 2-year-old brother, Chase, have blocks, Legos [sic], bouncing balls, toy cars and books galore. ("They love books," Ms. Sykes said.) But nothing compares to the iPhone. "If they know they have the option of the phone or toys, it will be the phone, " Ms. Sykes said.
No kidding! Crazy thing: I've seen little kids do the exact same thing with ice cream. I've even seen parents deny their kid this ice cream. The kid totally survived not getting the ice cream! Wild!
Here's the other thing. When I was growing up in the tumultuous 1980s, with its creature features and gyrating Alicia Silverstones on Music Television, I had this temptation called "TV," and also these "VHS tapes" of movies that I'd tape off that TV. I'd watch them for hours on end before the tape literally wore out. During grade school I'd watch the grainiest Star Wars tape in existence every day after class until I literally had the dialogue memorized.
My parents obviously recognized that this wasn't healthy. They enrolled me in a local soccer league and encouraged me to start playing an instrument (the violin). They sat down with the family every night for dinner and talked. Ultimately I survived the big bad television that was supposedly rotting my brain. Crazy!
If something like an iPhone is a complementary part of a young person's life, in this day and age, that's completely fine. It's how life is, and will be, and is also a testament to how Apple was able to create and design a mini computer that's betwixt adults and children alike. Hell, even the experts are starry-eyed. Isn't that right, anti-iPhone psychology professor Kathy Hirsh Pasek?
Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, a psychology professor at Temple University who specializes in early language development, sides with the Don'ts. Research shows that children learn best through active engagement that helps them adapt, she said, and interacting with a screen doesn't qualify. Still, Dr. Hirsh-Pasek, struck on a recent visit to New York City by how many parents were handing over their iPhones to their little children in the subway, said she understands the impulse. "This is a magical phone," she said. "I must admit I'm addicted to this phone." - NYT
I hope she wasn't checking email on her iPhone while giving the NYT that interview. That would have been so passively engaging!
But enough. Giving into your grabby kid when they drool over a Retina Display is an impulse. One that can be resisted. If you're a good parent.