As a matter of fact, so is my son. But again, I’m ok with it. Being an addict myself, it’s natural I would pass down these addictive tendencies to my children. My youngest daughter, who’s not quite four months, will probably be one when she comes of “age” as well. What’s this addiction that I’ve passed on to my children you ask? Well, it’s a technology addiction. For those of you who thought it was to alcohol or drugs or any other nefarious condition of the sort, my parenting techniques, yes, are admittedly questionable, but give me some sort of credit. Should I be ashamed? Probably? Am I? Absolutely, not.
Once Upon A Time…
It all started about twenty years ago or so. With my mother. I’m 34 now, which makes me one of these darn “millennials” everyone is so down on, which means I blossomed in the “technology” age. Be that as it may, I can also remember a time before personal computers were so prevalent in everyone's homes, pockets, purses, man bags, etc. And during that time, I being the avid lover of music that I am, asked my mom for a Sony Walkman. The very idea that you could walk around with your own, personal CD player, and listen to music wherever you wanted was intriguing to me. It was literally the best thing I’d ever heard of, and I was dying to get my hands on one. So what’s a ten-year-old with no money, or job whatsoever, to do when she wants something? Why she nags her parents incessantly. You place notes in her purse, you write essays (well paragraphs) on the advantages of a Sony walkman, and how it will improve your quality of life, you promise to never, ever, ever, get in trouble again, wash the dishes every night until the end of time, and get good grades. When that doesn’t work, you make a Christmas List, with only one wish, a Sony walkman. Did the whining work? No. The good behavior? No. Did Santa bring it? No. Did pouting work? No.
So I sulked. Brooded. Had an attitude, wrote in my journal how awful it was that my mother couldn’t do this one thing for me. After everything, I had done. I was a good child. I did my chores, I got good grades. I mean, what else does this woman want from me? Of course, my ten-year-old mind could not comprehend the fact that my mother, (who was essentially single, although my dad was around), had two other kids, not just me, one who was special needs and was working a job that paid her around $10.00 an hour. A CD player in 1996 was around $99.00, adjusted for inflation that is $167.74 today. My mom was bringing home probably around $350 ish a paycheck, and it would have taken her more than a day to pay for it, but again, Why not?
Hindsight is really, 2020.
As a mom myself, I understand completely, why that purchase was not made. But as a ten-year-old, with absolutely no concept of money, bills, rent, power, or even what budget means, I was absolutely crushed. On that day, the day my mom finally told me, “no,” something was activated in me. I made a vow (not out loud but in hindsight subconsciously), that I would have each and every technology device that I ever wanted when I grew up, including the Discman. For those of you who actually care, I got my first one at 18, my freshman year of college, I loved that thing. And now, as a self-proclaimed Apple Fangirl, I have a product from every category on their site, even the audaciously expensive AirPods Max. And I use the word audaciously purposefully because who but Apple would have the audacity to release a $549.00 pair of headphones during a once in a lifetime pandemic?
So why don’t I care that my children are addicts?
1. Technology isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon. Well, first, there’s the obvious. Technology is here to stay, period. It’s ever-evolving, ever-changing, and has a global reach. Our world is only becoming more and more digitally-driven each and every day. Having children that are more tech-savvy not only provides them with the tools to express themselves, explore their creativity, and stay connected, it will also prepare them for a world and workplace that is becoming more and more predominantly digital. No child left behind.
2. I use technology to reinforce cognitive skills. My three-year-old has never known a life without a tablet. He got his first tablet for his first birthday, (a kindle fire). And graduated to an iPad mini around the start of the pandemic. I think most of us moms who have more than one child, can agree, the first child is your test case. It’s your, “I don’t know what I’m doing so I’m just going to try every reasonable thing here until something is successful, and just keep doing that over and over again,” case. Wash, rinse, and repeat. And somewhere along the line, you figure out something that works for both of you, and you hope and pray that your child turns out to be a pretty decent human being. Having said that, with my daughter, the teenager, I gave her technology because I love it. I downloaded some kiddie games, put some restrictions on Youtube, and let her have it. I figured as long as there was some type of kiddie programming playing on her iPod touch, she wasn’t in harm. (Let me also mention, I had my first daughter at 20, no excuse, but not mature either). With my son, I learned better. His tablet only has learning apps on it. Reading, learning shapes, numbers, no YouTube whatsoever. I restrict everything that he cannot learn from and check his usage religiously. The result? He can read, add, subtract, count by tens, twos, knows every shape known to man, and can even tell you what blue and yellow make (green). All before the age of two. Not to mention he’s experienced enhanced hand-eye coordination, (by following the shapes and objects on the screen in most of his apps). And, having to engage with the objects on the screen has greatly developed his thinking processes and application skills. I found out on accident he could read, (three children remember, no mom shaming please).
3. Improves Problem Solving Skills. I know, I know, but hear me out. Have you tried to play one of your child’s video games? Even the role-playing ones. How about this new-fangled math they are doing in school now. I sat down with my teenager, who’s doing algebra now, and tried to show her how to do a problem. I pulled out my handy, dandy, notebook (ha), and pencil, and proceed to do it longhand. You know, the way I grew up doing it. She looked at me like I had three heads. Three. Shook her head in disgust, and said no, mom, that’s not the way we learned. And proceeded to show me some convoluted method that was done in google classroom, and involved no paper whatsoever. The games and other interactive apps available to your children are much better than what we had growing up, and can take a little more mental finesse to conquer these days. Long gone are the days where we had to figure out how to get Mario to jump from platform to platform. It’s intense. Seriously, try understanding Minecraft, it will blow your mind, in a bad way.
4. Exposure. Before the internet was so readily available, and pretty present everywhere, I relied on books, (which I still love today), media outlets (which I trust wholeheartedly), and movies to expose me to anything outside of Chester, VA. Now, you can visit the Tahj Mahl, the Grand Canyon, The Louvre, explore and learn about pretty much anywhere in the world you want to. Making them less sheltered than their poor old mother was.
5. Lastly, A Very Attentive and Reliable Babysitter. C’mon, we all do it. And if you don’t? You’re a better parent than me. I can’t tell you how many times Finding Nemo has helped keep me sane. Or that iPad has given me just the right amount of peace and quiet I need after being yelled at all day at work. Or the blessed quiet and serenity I am afforded by my daughter’s iPhone. In my household, everyone is afforded the luxury of doing number two in privacy, except for mommy. When mommy is in the shower? Daddy wants to discuss how horrible his boss is being. The toddler, who does everything daddy does, wants to play peek-a-boo while mom is bathing, and the teenager, just WANTS something. Anything, everything, but it’s always something. I don’t know about you, but I appreciate the break that technology affords me.
Live your best life, your way.
Now both proponents of exposing your children to technology, and those vehemently against it, will both say the same thing: moderation, moderation, moderation. They’ll tell you that little to no moderation when it comes to your child and exposure to technology, can be detrimental. Can hinder development, decrease social skills, etc. They’ll tell you to limit screen time, let your child be bored, it allows them time to be creative, innovative, and inventive. And honestly, all that is probably true. Do you know what else is true? No two children are the same. They all react differently to different stimuli and environments, and I don’t think anyone, not an advice columnist, someone who went to school for 80 million years, or who has children of their own, can tell you what to do with your children. Only you, their parent, who is responsible for their rearing, can. Only you know what’s best for them. This is not to say that you shouldn’t listen to advice, from experts, family members, or those with experience, no, that’s not what I’m saying at all. Please listen, take advice into consideration, but at the end of the day, how you use that advice, and choose to incorporate it into your version of parenthood, is up to you. As for me, my children are healthy, sociable, intelligent, addicts. And I’m okay with that.