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Toddler Technology

D playing with iPod (Hawaii April 2010)
While shopping for our mini van last year, my husband and I noticed a lot of vans came equipped with DVD players. Initially, I didn't have much of an opinion regarding a DVD player in our vehicle. Then I started noticing vehicles playing movies all over town, in the Target parking lot, at traffic lights, waiting in the drive-through. I came home and told my husband absolutely no DVD player. He pointed out the convenience on road trips, but I argued that is exactly what all those other people said when they bought their vehicles, and there they are, driving around town talking over Nemo or-- worse-- not talking over Nemo and sitting in silence. Knowing myself, I knew the temptation would be too great. It would start slowly, a movie on a 35 or 45 minute drive. Eventually though, we would be the family that plays a movie on the way to the grocery store or in line at the drive-through just to get the kids to stop crying.

But it isn't so much the movie. It is the constant overload from electronics. Kids have DS's, PSP's, apps on their parents' smartphones, reading devices that play music and sing songs, and DVD players that can go wherever they go. Dropping D off at AWANAS the other day, I noticed a toddler watching shows on her mother's smartphone which was conveniently suction cupped to the stroller tray on special holder. Seriously?

Brothers watching a show together (North Carolina July 2011)
 Don't get me wrong. As a mother of three, I understand the need for indulgences. We love Disney. We watch Playhouse Disney in the morning and Disney movies at quiet time. I also happen to love Sponge Bob; D and I will cuddle up together with popcorn and laugh at the antics of our favorite fry cook. I know I don't have a smartphone or a tablet; I know my oldest is only three, and I know that when he does get access to those electronics, there will be a huge pull to them, even when limits are in place. But why are the parents throwing the limits out the window and allowing these things at play dates? Running in to AWANAS to drop off an older sibling? 10 minute drives to the grocery store?

I remember when I got my first Walkman and I wanted to wear it literally everywhere I went. I felt like Barbie with my cool headphones and Simon and Garfunkel CDs. My parents allowed me to wear them some places, but for the most part, I used them in my room while I read or did homework. My next great gadget was a brick of an MP3 player. I carried that thing everyday to college, sitting in the back corner of the library listening to CCR while I read poetry instead of doing homework. Even with my love for "an easier way to do things," I feel like I missed the memo that everything has gone electronic. When did riding a bike become sitting in your living room? When did reading become an electronic voice and a pen?

D's post on moving day (Hawaii April 2010)

I look at these things as tools, extremely useful gadgets to help make moving easier or road trips more fun, like portable DVD players. I could even see how awesome apps would be at the pediatrician--or on a flight-- when your bag of tricks ceased to be fun after the first 45 minutes of waiting. But family car trips require a certain amount of boredom and conversation, those backseat arguments that become life-long memories with your siblings (I could insert so many inside jokes between me and my sisters here).

Perhaps I will eat my words later, but we will never own one of those reading books (sorry, Vtech). Those kind of books that talk, probably sing, possibly have a moving screen, completely contrast the love of reading just to read. The quiet of holding a book, flipping a page, smelling the binding... Where does "Bugsby" fit in Pride and Prejudice? Would Jane Austen own a tablet? I don't know.
I do know that the highlight of my day was sitting with all three boys in my big chair reading Snowmen at Night by Caralyn Buehner followed by a short Winnie the Pooh story. The last road trip we went on with the boys was filled with travelling songs and I-spy with D. And while other kids are bumming for their mom's smartphone, D is playing tag with his new friends on the playground.

This blog was prompted by this article I just read in Newsweek and, oddly enough, a Dodge commercial. My husband and I don't plan on avoiding technology; I am, after all, the daughter of a computer engineer. I know that as my family begins to get older and thus have more outside influences, we are going to be aware of that dubious balance between technology to assist in life and technology becoming life.

D talking to his aunt (North Carolina November 2011)


Stacy Lynn said…
Excellent thoughts (and pictures!), Kimber. I totally agree with you, and this is something Doug and I have discussed, too. While I do have to spend a lot of time in front of the computer, I appreciate my time away from the screen.

To add do your shocking stroller-and-smartphone story, I once saw a kid watching a portable DVD player at a restaurant! The parents were sitting on one side of the table and the kid was sitting on the other side...watching a movie...totally ignoring the silent parents. This was several years ago, too! (Well, the kid would be watching a movie on an iPad2.)

How can people allow their children to stare at screens all day? It's definitely not healthy. :-/

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