“Hell-ooooo. Howyau?” Sean asked the broken cell phone that he holds to high for the listener to catch all but a whisper, if there was a listener. Sean has become fascinated with phones, especially cell phones. He has learned he can talk to the phone and someone (like his Grandma, Papi, or Uncle Matt) will answer him, keeping him babbling for ten minutes as the person on the other end keeps asking him questions and saying “really.” If I am talking to someone other than family, he becomes frustrated as he demands the phone until I hand him a toy phone. Sometimes the toy phone doesn’t work as he has realized that it’s a toy, so I give him a broken, dead cell phone.
As parents of this new generation, we are surrounded by technology. I grew up immersed in technology due to the fact I’m a “giga-byte,” the first generation not to know life without a computer. Though my parents didn’t have to worry about giving me typing lessons the same time I learned to write, they seemed to have raised me in simpler time. Now stores sell toddler digital cameras, toddler video games, toddler Mp3 players, and my personal favorite, toddler-size keyboards. At least with the boys so young and out of school, I can keep them from learning about these teenager toys masquareding as children toys. I wonder how you parents with elementary school kids do it. We are all trying to navigate this new territory, wondering what toys are necessary to help our kids succeed in a technological world and which ones can wait until they’re older and can buy it with their own money.
My in-laws were teachers, and when Evan was just a babe in arms, I asked them about the new toddler computers. They answered that they noticed the more technology kids received the smaller the attention span. They urged me to wait as long as possible, so I plan on taking their advice. Of course, my father-in-law was horrified over how many to toy cell phones we owned (four, but most of them say the alphabet, so these phones could act as a teaching aid) and that Sean was walking around the house with one. “Gee, we do have a toy rotary phone, if that makes you feel better,” I countered.
That’s the other thing about technology. Kids just want to be like their parents; hence, my boys are talking on toy cell phones and pacing around the house like their daddy when he’s on a business phone call. (I kid you not; my husband cannot sit still when he’s on the phone, and neither can my sons.) Evan vacuums with a toy lawn mower because he has never seen his father mow the grass, just his mother vacuum the floor. In fact, my sons scramble to get on the computer where they pretend to type and move around the mouse. They have their own broken keyboard that I painted for them. One day my husband found Evan typing on the computer all by himself in the office. When my husband asked Evan to come and play, Evan looked at his daddy and said, “I can’t. I’m working.” My husband was shocked, but I pointed out that is exactly what my husband does and says when he is working from home. Evan was just mimicking. (I think it was a little sad though.)
Another time my husband and I caught Evan at the computer, Evan said, “I’m writing an email!”
My husband was shocked again, turned to me, and said, “He’s a genius! I wouldn’t have said that at his age!”
I answered, “Of course not, they didn’t have email when we were kids. We would have said we’re writing a letter.”
So, yes, I know Evan and Sean will have an Mp3 player at a much earlier age than me. They’ll have a digital camera at the same age I got my first film camera. They’ll play video games at an earlier age. Hell, they had the Disney Channel at an earlier age than me. I plain refuse to let my kids become addicted to video games and the internet. I have stated that they will not have computers or TVs in their rooms until their in middle school, and I will be six feet under before I let them have a connection to the internet in their own room. (They can just use the family computer where I can look over their shoulders.) And at one point, I thought I wouldn’t have to buy them a cell phone. Ha. Now I’ll have to figure out how to limit it. I just have to make sure my husband and I do this technological parenting as smart as we can and kick them out of the house when they are reaching zombie stage, staring at a video game, trying to conquer level 63.