Walk into any coffee shop in New York City (or around the country, really), and the odds are good that you will see one or more toddlers happily playing with a smartphone or tablet computer. With complete ease, they tap on icons, flip from one page to the next, and interact with characters on the screen. Plenty of parents suspect their 2-year-old is better at using technology than they are.
In part because electronic devices are so easy to use, and in part because kids love bright-and-shiny tech toys, kids are starting the pleas for gadgets of their own at younger and younger ages. Manufacturers, always on the lookout for new markets, don’t make things easier for parents by purposefully pitching their advertising to young eyes and ears.
Your child’s requests (pleas) for the latest technology are not inherently unreasonable. Wholly apart from the sheer fun of using the devices, kids implicitly understand that technology is an integral part of their social development. Significant and fast-moving conversations are taking place online, and no kid wants to be left out.
But how to balance parental concerns with your child’s enthusiasm and eagerness? Here are some questions to consider.
Do you have a technology adoption plan? Have you and your spouse/partner discussed your own values, concerns, and expectations regarding your child’s technology use? It’s important to take the time to think about these issues ahead of time (ideally, pre-natally) and to make sure you’re both on the same page.
Are you ready to be the parent of a technologically-equipped child? Are you and/or your spouse ready to supervise online activity, do the necessary research to understand new technology and apps, and to both draw and enforce necessary boundaries?
Are you prepared to discuss uncomfortable topics? As a friend of mine recently learned, even a 2-year-old can click his way to extremely inappropriate content on YouTube. Be prepared; your technologically-equipped child will be exposed to a wide range of content.
How responsible and mature is your child? There two parts to this questions: Can he or she be trusted to take care of a not-inexpensive physical object, and can he or she be trusted to respect limits that you impose on the device’s use?
Given the stories we all read in the newspapers each day, many parents would love to stuff the technological genie back in the bottle. But the reality is that our kids are growing up in a technologically-infused world, and they need to join it sooner or later. They want to join it as soon as possible; as parents, our job is to make sure that they stumble as little as possible as they take their first tech steps.
If you have questions or want input about whether your little darling is ready for a particular device, post something below.