I am definitely not anti-technology. I’m a big TV and movie fan, and I love Facebook and Pinterest. I’m a frequent Instagram-er. Most evenings after my baby goes to sleep you can find me in bed reading on my Kindle app or binging on Netflix. I’m plugged in. Aren’t most of us these days? But recently, I’ve watched my son get more and more familiar with and become attached to certain technologies – and I discovered that I’m just not okay with that.
Everyone has to make their own decisions about their kids and how much technology they are exposed to and at what ages. I truly don’t think that there is a hard and fast line drawn at a certain age where technology is appropriate for all children. But I know that it was too early for my son.
William has never been very interested in technology before. He has been a big bookworm, loving being read to and dutifully ignoring the television when my husband and I are watching it. And I have to say, this didn’t always thrill me, even though I knew it was a good thing. On days when William wouldn’t even let me finish emptying the dishwasher, I envied parents who could put on their kid’s favorite show and be guaranteed 30 minutes or an hour of time to themselves.
A couple of months ago, my husband and I took William on a trip overseas with my family. I was very nervous about how he would behave on such a long flight, and I wanted to be as prepared as possible in order to keep him entertained. So I asked around and downloaded a few recommended iPad games for William, hoping that may do the trick.
From the very beginning, William had a weird reaction to the iPad games. It took us by surprise because he had played a simple game before and enjoyed it. But these games were more advanced. He took to them very quickly (it’s kind of scary how intuitive these devices are, even to toddlers), but he also became very frustrated when he had trouble with them, more so than when he had trouble with a toy or non-electronic game. They kind of made him crazy, yet he still wanted to play frequently.
I had every intention of only allowing him to play the games while traveling, but I began experiencing the slippery slope to which many fall victim. I’m pregnant and early on found myself running low on energy and patience when William became fussy or demanding. It made it hard to say no to him when he asked to play on the iPad because I knew he would fuss, and I just didn’t want to deal with the whining and crying. Yep, not the best parenting, just being honest. So I kept rationalizing, saying to myself, I’ll just let him play when he wakes up in the morning and after his nap or I’ll only let him play for 10 minutes at a time. But every time I saw him playing, and sometimes getting frustrated and fussy with the games, I felt disappointed in myself. He has tons of toys and books, and I’m home with him – there is no reason he should be parked in front of a screen at this age.
Then one night, William had a difficult night. He’s not a great sleeper in the best of circumstances, but I’m pretty sure he was teething and he was up a lot of the night crying. And one time when he woke up, and I was walking him around the house, I saw him reach for the iPad and become more hysterical when I wouldn’t let him play on it. And I was done. I vowed that for the foreseeable future, he would not play any more iPad games.
The next morning, before he woke up, I made sure my iPad was stashed away where he couldn’t see it. And though he did ask for it a couple of times that day, I just cheerfully told him, no, we’re not going to play with the iPad, let’s play with _______” and then I would name one of the many other options available to him that didn’t involve electronics. And he was actually pretty easy to distract and redirect. Several days later, I knew I had made the right decision. Things were already more peaceful in our daily routine, and I realized how much anxiety I had been experiencing surrounding that stupid tablet – knowing that it was only a matter of time before he got frustrated and pitched a fit or pitched a fit because I took it away from him. Within a few days without it, he stopped asking for it altogether.
I’m not about to tell anyone when or how to expose their kids to technology, but this was one of those “be kind, rewind” parenting moments for my husband and me, when we realized that we had exposed William to something too early and chose to remove it from his daily routine. Raising a kid, we are quickly learning, doesn’t come with a handbook, and sometimes all you can do is back up and change direction. We have no plans to live like the Amish and bar William from electronics forever, but we will be more cautious in the future about when we choose to introduce new things to him. Lesson learned!