Like many mums, I am a member of an online parenting website that also has a Facebook group. It’s a friendly place where, for over 2 years now, we’ve shared our pregnancies, births and everything that has come after!
Our 19-month old munchkins are approaching their second Christmas so of course, the Facebook chat is focused on presents. Last week, a mum posted something like “We’ve bought Harry an iPad and a bike, any ideas what else we should get him?” Internet silence ensued, presumably whilst we all picked our jaws up from the floor. Then a few brave warriors began to comment “That’s very generous, does he really need more?” “Wow, that’s nice of you” to “Don’t you think that’s enough?” followed by “We’re struggling this year, so just a few small toys for us.” There was then a virtual elephant in the room. Is no-one going to mention a 1-year old having an iPad?
Whether it’s an iPad, Kindle, Hudl or Nexus, tablets are big business. In 2013, more tablets were sold in the UK than personal computers. You can buy a tablet now for under £100, so yes, it’s obvious that more and more people are going to buy them.
I am not against kids having access to technology; my 5-year old uses my tablet to access a handful of apps that I have approved. She uses it for no more than 10-15 minutes a day and I have set it up in such a way that there is no chance of her a) accessing anything that she shouldn’t be able to and b) that she can’t make in-app purchases. As a tech-savvy mum I am sure that I’m doing the ‘right thing’ with my kid. We discuss the technology, she’s confident using it and as a result, I know that she’s bringing her skills into her education. With ICT being on the National Curriculum from 5, there’s no shying away from it.
Now, does my 1-year old play on my tablet? No, he certainly does not. Yes, he attempts to join in with his sister but he is never encouraged to use it and won’t be, for a good few years yet. Why? I think it’s lazy parenting.
There’s a difference between handing your toddler your phone or tablet to distract them for a minute whilst you have a wee in peace and actually purposely buying them their own tablet. That implies to me that you plan for your child to spend a significant amount of time using the tablet. Yes, there are great apps out there but unless you intend to sit with your child and share the experience you are passing down your parental responsibility to an inanimate object. These apps are about colours, shapes, songs. What’s wrong with teaching your toddler those things yourself? Do you really need an app to show your child colours? To teach them a nursery rhyme?
The US Department of Health recommends that children under the age of 2 should not be in front of a screen at all. From 2 upwards,this should be capped at 2 hours a day including TV.
Then there’s the whole issue of the cost of an iPad for a 1-year old. To me, it’s vulgar. You could say that if you have the money, why not spend it, but what lessons are you teaching your child? Anyone that has small children will know that Christmas Day is special whether you’ve a handful of small gifts or the entire toy selection from Hamleys. They love wrapping paper, boxes and being part of a family.
My strength of feeling about this whole issue has made me take stock of just how much I spend on my children at Christmas. I read a great article recently on a family that were having money problems and had devised vouchers to give to their kids as presents with offers such as “Trip to the park with Daddy” and “Sleepover in Mummy and Daddy’s room”. According to the writer, the kids were thrilled and said it was their “best Christmas ever”
If you are thinking of buying your toddler a tablet this Christmas, think it through. Are you actually buying it for them or are you buying it for surrogate childcare?
What are your thoughts? Comment below or tweet me @bennolikes