As we sat by a computer, my 22 month-old granddaughter uttered her first complete sentence to me. It was: “Grandma, you have to double click.” That’s when I knew I was in a different universe. And now it is clear: our digital toddlers, whom we call Digitods, are here to stay.
Why? It’s not surprising. Infants are very interested in the world, and especially in the people around them. In fact, one of the ways a baby can tell us what he or she is thinking is via their gaze. Watch babies and see how often their eyes are glancing at a piece of digital technology in their parents’ or siblings’ hands. It is not surprising, then, that when a baby can finally grasp an item within his or her reach, it turns out to be exactly what is so fascinating to the rest of the world.
Moms and Dads are always checking their smartphones, tablets or computers. Yet they are surprised when their Digitods are interested as well. Not only are toddlers interested – they are good at maneuvering these technological wonders. Think about it: all a toddler needs to do is be able to swipe, tap and pinch. These are skills most Digitods acquire between 12-14 months. So, a few months later, not only are they using objects their parents use, they are competent at doing so!
Here’s the dilemma most parents are facing: just because my child is good at using a smartphone, should he or she be playing with it? Will using an iPhone or Android hurt his development by turning him into a robot who cannot understand human relations?
What is the best path to take to help create a healthy well-balanced child?
First, Don’t stop your child from using a digital device unless you are willing to stop also. Since that will never happen in today’s world, consider taking control of the situation.
Here are some tips:
1. Plan a time in the day for tablet use. Don’t just try to hide your iPad when you are not using it. Your son or daughter will find it and use it anyway. So let your child know that there is time in the morning and/or time in the afternoon for digital entertainment.
2. Tell your child how much time she will be spending on any digital device. Little kids don’t understand time, but they do understand that there will be a time limit. If you need to, use a timer and give a two-minute warning.
3. For the rest of the day, make sure you include active play like going to a playground, social time with other children, and time to use their imagination by playing with other toys and games.
Remember that, just like any human being, a happy child is one that takes pleasure in many things!