While I understand why people would want to keep their children from watching certain television programs, nothing drives me crazier than when a parent smugly oozes “Oh, we don’t let our children watch TV.”
It’s just such a lame-O comment because it’s pretty much standard for most American families to own televisions, is it not? And I don’t really think I’m going out on a limb to say that most folks (children included) watch those televisions. I mean, enough kids that The Fresh Beat Band and other Nick Jr celebs probably pull in some pretty serious bucks on actual concert tours. In light of that common knowledge, the statement just seems über smug, filled to overflowing with an I’m-a-better-parent-than-you vibe.
Television is as much a part of the fabric of twentieth century America as baseball, apple pie and anything else you can name. TV is the great equalizer. Rich and poor alike watch the same crappy reality shows and it’s something we all have in common. Did you watch American Idol last night? Oh my hell, the one singer is terrible! Did you hear what Steven Tyler said? That kind of thing. It’s escapism and always has been. Our parents watched to forget about war and now, while we’re watching some bitchy housewives argue about nonsense we can maybe forget about the damn mortgage payment that was due last week.
So even if child development experts agree that too much screen time (TV and computers) is bad for kids, the whole “we don’t watch TV” thing chafes me. What? Are you sitting around a candle reading passages from Leaves of Grass? My daughter is two and the fact that she can count to 20 in Spanish and English (thank you, Dora) and knows all her shapes and colors (courtesy of Blue and her clues) is fantastic.
Now, newer technologies like smartphones and tablets are taking up where TV has left off. Which brings me to my question: Would you hand your smartphone to your toddler to keep him or her entertained? You can probably guess my answer.
My 2-year-old daughter has been in love with this song and video since she was 6 months old. If I even get the slightest whiff of an in-store freak out, I whip out my Blackberry faster than you can say smartphone and have got the vid dialed up. If it helps keep her entertained and saves me the embarrassment of hauling out a screaming toddler pulling the ol’ sack-of-potatoes maneuver, I’m all good.
I was reading Us Magazine this weekend, (What? You don’t read trash mags? Who are you?) and it had a feature on “Real-Life Hollywood Moms”. Allyson Hannigan from How I Met Your Mother was quoted as saying “I’m going to keep her from watching TV has long as possible.” But you work on TV! Also, just shut up. And then there was Rebecca Romijn, mother of twin daughters who says her kids love Cartoon Network which she pulls up for them on her iPad. She also says her iPhone is one of her best tricks for keeping her girls busy. “The iPhone is great for toddlers,” explains the actress, 38. “I have Itsy Bitsy Spider and Old McDonald apps.”
Faith Merino reporter for VatorNews and self-described super smug mom-to-be disagrees. “I’ve heard of people doing this—I’ve even seen it once—and I’ve never understood how or why someone would hand their iPhone over to a toddler. But people do it. From what I hear, it’s a great way to keep kids occupied, and this trend is on the rise.”
Babble’s own Meredith Carroll wouldn’t hand her smartphone to her daughter, but her reasoning is sound. “The last time my toddler had my smartphone in her hand (I didn’t hand it to her – she picked it up), she threw it off a balcony into a parking lot. So, no. No, I wouldn’t.”
A survey of over 1,000 moms conducted by BlogHER and Parenting Group found that a growing number of moms are in the Rebecca Romijn camp. 33% of all moms said they’ve let their child use a smartphone before the age of two. The survey results also showcase huge generational differences in attitudes toward technology and children. 33% of Generation Y (those born after 1980) moms said their toddler had played with a smartphone, compared to just 20% of Gen X moms (born between late 1960’s and 1980).
Merino speculates, “Is it because Gen Y moms have grown up with the ubiquity of such devices and they’ve become almost complacent in the knowledge that if their toddler breaks their smartphone, they can go out and get another one? Or perhaps it’s because Gen X moms are older and more likely to eschew electronics in favor of healthier, more educational activities?”
Something tells me Merino has never seen the plethora of educational activities available to all smartphone users.
So tell me, would you hand your smartphone to your toddler? Why or why not? And are you a Gen X or Gen Y mama? Do you think it’s a generational thing?
Keeping the smart phone close? Here are Babble’s Top 50 iPhone Apps for Moms!