Family life

Too young for technology?

Tracy wonders if she's keeping her kids in a bubble.

By Tracy Chappell
Too young for technology?

I’m not a big technology person. Neither am I a technophobe. At least, I don’t think I am. I’m slow-to-adapt, which isn’t necessarily a horrible thing, but it does mean that I’m often the last to get the latest gadgets or join new fandangled things like Facebook and Twitter. I’ve always been like this. I just don’t always believe that what is new is intrinsically better and that we should blindly follow along. I want to know how it’s going to benefit me and what the drawbacks are. I hung onto my tape player forever (I’m still not convinced that CD technology was much of an improvement — one scratch and it’s ruined!). I still own a VHS player. I only got a smartphone about a year ago and I’m still not very good with it.
I’ve sort of been the same with my kids. I don’t keep them in a bubble (or so I thought), but I’m pretty careful about what they’re exposed to. I don’t want them to grow up any faster than they already are, or put things into their heads that they don’t need to be thinking about at this age.
But this Christmas was eye-opening. Kids I know in the six-to-eight age range got an iPod touch – or their own Playbooks. (I also met a five-year-old who has seen all the Twilight movies.) I was a bit stunned. Sean looked at me at one point and said, “Is it just us?” I knew what he meant. Items like this aren’t even on my kids’ radars and he was questioning if we’re completely old-fashioned in our beliefs that these types of gifts can wait until our kids are older. Much older. But even my mom mentioned that our kids are going to be left behind!
My rationale is that my girls — aged six and four — have the rest of their lives to be attached to electronic devices and I want to put off the start date as long as I possibly can. Every parent knows her own children and I don’t pretend to know better, believe me. I only know my own and I worry that these devices will isolate them, putting everyone in my house in his or her own little world. Do I want my six-year-old to be texting or spending hours on YouTube? Along with the expense, the introduction of this kind of technology invites new things to argue about, like screen time and privacy, along with new things to worry about — online profiles, the dangers of the Internet and access to a new, mature world that they know nothing about. And it only leads to the next cooler thing, right?
After spending time with her cousin (and her cousin’s iPod touch), Anna said to me, “Maybe next Christmas I can get one of these. Everyone I know has one.” Upon further prodding, I discovered she was referring to her two older cousins, and two Grade Twos in her class, who got them for Christmas. “What would you do with it?” I asked her. She shrugged.  
We are not complete Luddites: My kids own a Leapfrog Leapad and a Vtech V-reader. They mostly like to take them on car rides. We don’t have an iPad (for shame, I know!) but we have a Kobo Vox. My kids can use the tablet much better than I can; they know how to do the finger swipe. I think there’s still hope for them.
What do you think is a good age to introduce something like an iPod and the texting and web access that comes with it? Why? If your kids have one, do you set limits or monitor their activity? Tell me I'm not alone here!

Photo by courosa via Flickr.

This article was originally published on Jan 15, 2013

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