Let me preempt this post (ontological question: is something really preemptive if it’s the first sentence in an essay, or is it merely introductory? Oh well…) by assuring you that I’m not writing it from my front porch while lording over an ever-growing collection of kites, soccer balls, and frisbees as I yell at the neighborhood kids to get the hell off my lawn.
That said, here’s another assurance: your two-year-old needs an iPad about as much as you need a diaper. (Which is to say, sure, it might be a treat once in a while, but let’s not go all Lisa Nowak here, okay?)
From MSN Money the other day:
Three years ago, when he was just 2 years old, Max Fuller got his first iPhone. His father, Craig Fuller, the CEO of a banking technology company, said it’s been an “enormous tool” for teaching Max the basics about colors, shapes and letters, and most recently the names of all of the dinosaurs and how they lived.
Okay, yeah, sure — education, innovation, keep up with the times, Trevor the Troglodyte. Obviously, you’ve missed the trend train and are attempting to analyze the current state of affairs from the engine fumes-engulfed platform of your pump-action handcar:
According to data gathered from September to December 2011 by global strategic marketing agencyKids Industries, 20% of children ages 3 to 8 own their own iPod touch, while 24% of U.S. children in this age group own their own iPad and 8% own their own iPhone. For teens, the numbers are considerably higher. An April 2011 survey conducted by financial adviser firm Piper Jaffray found that 80% of U.S. teenagers owned a type of mp3 player, with the iPod by far the most common, 17% owned an iPhone (38% expected to buy one in the ensuing six months), and 29% owned or had access at home to a tablet device (and 22% said they expected to buy an iPad in the ensuing six months).
Which is all well and good for Apple investors, but perhaps not so keen for early (as in, pre-pre-pre-teen) adopters:
According to many experts, so much screen time can have permanent effects on the brain. The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages any media use by children younger than 2. Dr. David Hill, a member of American Association of Pediatrics’ Council on Communications and the Media and the author of the forthcoming book “Dad to Dad: Parenting Like a Pro,” agrees and recommends that any child over the age of 2 limit screen time to two hours a day.
“Evidence suggests that viewing the sorts of rapid fire images present in videos or video games can lead to future problems in children’s ability to concentrate,” he says, adding that some research suggests a strong link between media exposure and ADHD. He says problems are likely to surface when the device is used as a substitute for communication between parent and child.
Jane M. Healy, an educational psychologist who specializes in the effect of computer technology on growing brains and the author of “Different Learners: Identifying, Preventing and Treating Your Child’s Learning Problems,” says technology offers no benefits to young children.
“All indications are that instead of increasing their intelligence, it’s going to dull it down,” she says. What’s most important for a young child’s brain development is participating in conversation, a skill that children preoccupied with an iPad, cellphone or computer fail to practice, she says. “It’s language that will later help them become physicists, scientists and imaginative computer programmers.”
Again, this isn’t a screed against a harried parent handing their screaming toddler their touchscreen-enabled smartphone to quiet him down at the mall or in a restaurant; it’s a screed against anyone who would use such technology to outright replace time that they would have otherwise spent interacting with thetreasured fruit (Apple, in most cases) of their loins. Of course, that’s only half the issue, because while it’s one thing to let your kid use your fancy-ass future gizmo once in a while, it’s another thing entirely to give him one of his own — and not because you might spoil him (though there is that), but because you might literally and permanently reconfigure his brain chemistry for the worse.
Don’t get me wrong: it’s not like I wouldn’t have killed for the latest interactive miniaturized gadget as soon as I was old enough to start requesting Disney movies by name, but the fact that I didn’t have ready access to pre-canned digital entertainment meant that I spent most of my youth careening through the unlimited confines of that wonderously weighty buzzword, IMAGINATION.
If I’d owned an iPad, do you think I would have spent the majority of my free time running around outdoors or reading piles of books animated in proprietary HD (head-defined) ImagiVision? Shit no! I’d have been hunkered down on the couch with a bag of Nacho Cheese Doritos one one side and a bottle of Cran-Raspberry juice on the other, alternating my time between the latest YouTube sensation and marathon battles spent launching disgruntled fowl at ravenous porkers into the wee hours of the morning.
So yes, this is an “everything in moderation” rant, but I think it’s an important one. Because while it’s absolutely true that, with
an increasingly technology-focused society and economy…exposure to technology, no matter how early, will only help children develop into the tech-savvy adults the country needs[,]
it’s also true that hundreds of people die of exposure each year. (Yeah, I went there.) So, Mr. Fuller, next time you want to teach your kid about colors and letters, why not try Dr. Seuss? And if he wants to learn about dinosaurs, I bet he’d love the ones in a museum even more than the ones on the tiny screen in his hand. Because there’s always going to be time for him to get his Retina Display on, but once those vital synapses and cerebral crennelations begin to solidify, there’s literally no going back. Then it won’t matter how many apples a day you feed him.