Not long ago, I ranted about how some parents let the iPad babysit their kids. I have the same problem with parents who use the iPhone to entertain their children — especially very young ones.
The iPhone has “become the most effective tool in human history to mollify a fussy toddler, much to the delight of parents reveling in their newfound freedom to have a conversation in a restaurant or roam the supermarket aisles in peace,” writes Hilary Stout in The New York Times.
But just as adults become addicted to the iPhone, so do kids. The problem is that kids — especially little ones — don’t need any more screen time.
Sure, letting your kids play with the iPhone when you’re at a restaurant may allow you to enjoy a quiet meal, but it also prevents your kids from learning how to behave at a restaurant.
According to the Times, many kids today — even younger than 2 — would prefer an iPhone to actual toys. Realizing they tapped into a huge market, iPhone developers have come up with apps targeted to their young audience. Many of these iPhones apps are marketed as being educational, but most educational experts say that’s not necessarily the case.
I can think of few things more annoying than a “Wheels on the Buss” app that plays the kiddie song in various languages. Do toddlers really need an iGo Potty app (sponsored by the company that makes Huggies) that will remind them when it’s time to go potty?
Tovah P. Klein, the director of Columbia University’s Barnard College Center for Toddler Development, fears that kids’ obsession with playing on the iPhone will limit toddler’s socialization time and prevent them from interacting with the outside world.
“Children at this age are so curious and they’re observing everything,” said Klein. “If you’re engrossed in this screen you’re not seeing or observing or taking it in.”
Similarly, I can’t stand when adults walk down the street with their eyes glued to their iPhones — what happened to daydreaming, checking out the sights or saying “hello” to people you pass?
Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, a psychology professor at Temple University who specializes in early language development, cites research that shows that children learn best through active engagement, not by interacting with a screen.
Do I let my kids play with my iPhone occasionally? Sure. Do I plan to make it a regular habit? No.
Besides, it’s my toy and I don’t want to share it. When they get older, they can buy their own iPhone — or whatever the next tech toy may be.
What about you? Do you think toddlers should be using iPhones?