In a recent discussion with a family I used to work for, the Father asked me if I thought an iPad would be a good present for his two year olds daughters birthday. For one of the few times in my life I was speechless.
I listened to his reasons patiently and I vaguely understood where he was coming from; both parents work full time and travel a lot. They have the luxury of often being able to take their children with them and when they do, they do not always take a nanny as well. This can mean long car journeys or flights where the parents may wish to get on with their work and the children need to entertain themselves. Neither parent wishes to give up their own electronic to let the children play on it, just as they don’t want their iPad filled with children’s games and videos. So I almost see the rationale, but surely they are missing the point.
I was lucky enough to grow up in a generation where technology was only just becoming freely accessible and I am sure my parents had moments where they needed me to just play quietly for a while, but thats what books and toys are for and most importantly, imagination. Having worked with this age group for several years I can happily say that if they don’t know what their missing out on, they wont miss it. That a digger truck or a new doll will bring just as much enjoyment, if not more, than the latest version of children’s games online.
I have an iPad, I have a phone but I am an adult who, for the most time, knows when to turn the electronics off and read a good book or enjoy sociability away from the screens. If we don’t teach our children this by example do we not run the risk of them never knowing how to live without a screen beside them? With this in mind, I have decided upon a new rule which may seem silly to some and others may feel I am being too strict but I don’t believe a child should have an ipad or any electronic devise until they know how to respect it and be responsible for it. This means being of an age where they understand the implications that come with them being trusted with an expensive and potentially dangerous device. Children should be taught to be content with their own imaginations and the games in their head, not the computer generated versions.
Yes I am a nanny, so yes I am paid to play with children and I understand that not all parents have the luxury of time to play with their children at every moment and I am not saying that no child should ever be allowed to watch television or play a game on a screen, but so long as there is any imagination left in this world, I hope parents will continue to allow their children to develop their imaginations with the stimulus that surrounds them, not via downloads, and I hope that every now and then parents can remember to lead by example, turning the electronics off and show their children exactly what being a child is all about. Having fun in that little world you make for yourself through the pictures in a book, through the toys on the floor or with the left over cardboard boxes from a delivery is what growing up is all about, not personal electronic devices.