My Low Tech Kid: Why I’m Not Ready To Let My Son Play With An iPad

This morning I glanced over at the pile of work stuff my husband keeps stashed in the guest room. It was mostly the usual – printouts of articles, a binder, trade magazines. Then I saw it: an iPad. I knew he was going to get one issued to him but it had taken so long that I’d forgotten it was coming. Our 5 year old son was super excited when he first heard that we were getting one because he’s played a game on one at a friend’s house and for a while was asking daily when “my iPad game” was going to arrive.

I don’t even want him to know it’s in the house.

I’m no technology prude. We have laptops and smartphones and e-reader tablets and video game systems in the house. They serve a variety of purposes form entertainment to work and my son gets varying degrees of access to them. TV is a daily part of his existence. He plays video games on weekends when Daddy is around because Mommy doesn’t know how to work the Xbox. On rare occasions he gets a chance to play a few games on my iPhone, usually when we’re waiting at a doctor’s office or on a flight. He likes the games but seldom asks to play them and that’s how I like it.

I don’t know why I fear the iPad will be different. Maybe because it’s such a holy grail of gadgets and the world of apps is so much like a technological candy store. It just feels like crossing into iPad world will spark an interest in high tech toys and games that, so far, has eluded my son. Plus the iPad, unlike most of our other gizmos is easily navigable for a child who can’t yet read. He would have autonomy over the iPad that he doesn’t have with the DVR listings .

Part of my resistance to letting him play with the iPad is practical. For one thing, it’s a work tool for my husband. It’s not really a family toy, thought I’m sure he’ll be generous with allowing C to play with it on weekends. But that’s another issue: I limit screen time and the iPad, as I see it, is just another screen. I get tired at the very thought of negotiating with him over if-you-play-this-game-you-can’t-watch-that-show. I don’t want to monitor another resource that needs to be limited.

The other part of my resistance is my strong feeling that children learn best in three dimensions. I don’t think there’s anything my son can gain from an app that he can’t get from his Legos, books, action figures, or on the playground.  As it stands, he can spend all afternoon assembling Lego minifigs in a universe of his own creation. He and I do activity books together where he learns about patterns and letters and numbers and we can talk about what he’s doing. He and his friends run around after school, playing games of the imagination with all the arcane rules and shifting topography of young childhood. That’s my vision of how small kids should play: in motion, with others, and without the limits imposed by a programmer.

There is all the time in the world for my son to learn how to use the weighty tools of technology. They’ll someday help him with his studies and his work. But for now, I’m not ready to see him trade the traditional toys of real world for the brave new toys of the virtual world.

Read more from Rebekah at Mom-in-a-Million The Broad Side. Follow Rebekah on Facebook and Twitter too!

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