Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Why kids don't need iPads

Maybe I am on old man, but it freaks me out to see a two year old with an iPad in their hands.  I see it when parents bring their little ones to school. I see it in stores and when I am visiting relatives.  2-5 year old's holding hand held devices, like iPads, lost in their own little world.  It almost freaks me out as much as all the adults I see staring at their phones all the time.  It is depressing to see people out for dinner looking at their phones instead of talking to each other.

So when I see a two or three year old tapping away on a pad, I get a little weirded out. I mean, shouldn't they be playing, or running or reading a book?  Shouldn't they be bugging their parents or irritating their siblings?

I have seen several posts lately about why iPad/handheld devices are good for kids, most notably this by Hipmombrarian


Her children, both on handheld devices, learning and laughing.

Her points sound reasonable, but are wrong. Lets take them one by one and I will tell you why.

1) Because banning things never, ever, ever works. 
Remember when your parents wouldn't let you watch rated R movies so you just went to your friends’ houses to watch them? I think I’d rather have my kids using technology and handheld devices with me beside them. Where I can engage with them, answer questions, and limit content if I have concerns.
Yes it does.  Kids can't smoke, drive cars or take drugs other than sugar.  Most kids can't look at porn, unless they have an iPad.  This is a defeatist attitude from someone who doesn't want to tell her kids "no".
2) Problem solving.
When my kids get really frustrated with not being able to do something, they don’t just quit. My oldest likes to draw. We often times draw together, using books or other tools to guide us. One day she could not figure out how to draw a cat and I couldn’t either.  Without even asking us she got her iPad, went to youtube, looked up tutorials on drawing cats and taught herself with the guidance of the tutorials. She is seven. She draws amazing cats now.
Kids learned problem solving before iPads and youtube.  It was called "figuring it out for yourself".  I learned how to draw cats by looking at cats.  Now when my kid is ten and wants to know how to draw a cat in the style of Gauguin, I will happily tell her to look it up on youtube.  But I'd rather she draw cats in her own style instead of copying others.   
3) Technology Skills
Let’s be honest here. We’ve seen what happens when people don’t have access to technology until their later years. (It is called the digital divide). America is already falling behind in technology skills, making us less employable and harder to train.
No adults alive today had an iPad, many did not grow up with a computer.  We "figured it out" for ourselves but frankly, it wasn't that hard.  iPads are even easier than a PC.  I call complete bullshit on this one.
4) Expectations in school
I spend a lot of time in classrooms as part of my job. If you really think we should ban handheld devices for children under 12, I hope you have spent some time in classrooms recently. Classrooms of the 21st century engage students in a variety of ways bridging technology and interactive teaching. I once witnessed a third grade  class making posters about specific animals, a task many of us are familiar with. But their posters had QR codes embedded on them that would jump to a GLOG (graphics blog) they had created about each animal. Mostly, from handheld devices.
Again I call bullshit.  No one needs QR codes to do a research project on animals.  Kids are expected to learn all the same stuff we were expected to learn.  I am a teacher and kids don't need early iPad education to learn about how to poke a screen to open an app.  They figure it out in about 2 minutes.  If they don't know, the nerdy kid who can't climb trees or throw a ball will teach them.  You know why?  He had an iPad when he was 2.
5) Interest
There are children out there who are motivated by technology. They are future coders. Future designers. Future engineers. I want my own kids to see everything technology has to offer. I made their Valentine’s Cards light up, because I want their minds to light up with the topics it introduces. They learn to code on Scratch, they practice Spanish on their own devices, and the possibilities are just beginning for them.
You can make Valentine cards with construction paper, scissors and glue.  Think Grandma wants an e-card?   No way.  She want a messed up kid made card.  If your kids are not interested in making stuff with glitter, glue, string and paper, step back and evaluate.  Why are they not interested?
6) Because I care about their brains.
There is a positive link to video games and brain development, that doesn’t get any attention! Yes, it is only one part of the brain and there are many other parts that also need to be developed, but creative thinking and problem solving in a virtual world is something I believe will be beneficial in my children’s future.
Really? Video games are good for your brain?  My three year old has plenty of time to "develop" her video game part of her brain.  Super Mario didn't make my friends super brainiacs. Mostly it just wasted their time and made their thumbs hurt. This is a completely stupid reason to give your kid an iPad.
7) Girls.
I’m raising two ferocious girls. Two girls who are currently very unlikely to get a degree in computer science. I want my children to know they can enter any field they want to, even the tech field.  (12% of computer science degrees currently go to girls). 
If you want your girl to get a degree in computer science, iPads will surely do the trick.  What?  Ipads are great tools for learning, work and entertainment, but they are not going to help anyone become a computer scientist.  Netflix won't help either.  I would get your girly enrolled in some awesome STEM programs when they are young if you really want to get them on that track.
8) Balanced Life
I am 32 years old and still trying to figure out how to balance my technology life. When do I turn my phone off? When do I stop checking email? It is not only something I want to model for my children in my own practice, but it is something I also want them to experience on their own. We turn the iPad off when it is time to go to a basketball game. Or climbing. Or gymnastics. They don’t throw fits. They don’t cry for it. They understand that it is one part of their day.
Okay, I will give her this one.  Adults can model good technology behavior.  If you can model it and your kids can handle it, great.  Most adults CAN'T.  Go out to eat, or a bar, or the mall or a college campus and watch people stare at their phones.  Think a kid can do better?  I don't, not most kids anyway.  
9) Literacy
I’m a librarian. I live and sleep literacy. I’ve watched children learn to read with books, with ebooks, with apps, with flash cards, and with cereal boxes. I want my children exposed to any text they will pay attention to. Including when it comes through a handheld device. We know that handheld devices can help with learning,especially when parents are involved with the interaction of the device.
AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! A librarian?  You want kids to read apps?  What about books?  Every minute they are reading an app they are NOT read a book.  This one KILLS me.  I am a teacher.  I want kids to read books.  Weird huh?  You know why?  Books are AWESOME.  If we don't teach kids to value them, to treasure them, to read them over and over, then we will have lost a generation of readers.  Where the Wild Things Are.  Charlotte's Web.  Bridge to Terabithia. Tell me the app is better than the book.  Just try.
10) Reality. 
It is 2014. iPhones were introduced 7 years ago. Now, half of Americans own smartphones. We should probably embrace what is here and use it to our advantage, rather than fighting with reality.
Be involved in what your children are interested in. Learn with them. Stop reading “clickbait” articles about technology and instead explore it yourself for awhile. Don’t let your own fears about something foreign to you limit the opportunities you give your child.
I am not fighting reality, I am trying to protect childhood.  Making mud pies, coloring (with Crayons), reading REAL books, being bored, making crap.  Just because you can give your child something doesn't mean you should.  Just because they are interested in something doesn't justify allowing them to use their precious childhood being sucked into a screen. 
Bottom Line:  I will not give my kid a device that will hold her back from doing kid stuff like swinging and singing and pretending. It is bad for her.  It is bad for your kids too.


  1. Scott, I totally agree with you. My background is in child development, and I taught preschool for years, have worked with all other age-groups in educational settings (including higher ed) and have raised two amazing daughters of my own. I did what I could to limit their screen time-we didn't have a TV. My kids entertained themselves making forts indoors & out. I have trunks full of their beautiful writing and visual art. They learned to play musical instruments, practiced martial arts and just played their hearts out. We took weekly trips to the library and filled a large box with books, which they devoured. They helped in the kitchen and with the pets and played family games. We went camping. My kids both learned all they needed to know about technology once they entered high school. That's when they got cell phones, because cell phones meant that as they became more autonomous, I was less worried if I could reach them. My oldest graduates university this year with a 4.0. My youngest is going to be a senior in high school and leads a very balanced life, taking time for herself to read and relax instead of pushing herself too hard. They are both themselves; each her own person. They are highly skilled socially and have tons of friends and make good decisions based on their inner instincts and intellect. I didn't want too much media bombardment to steer them away from their nature and their sense of wonder and love of learning… and I was successful, but they are more so. My youngest says she missed the days when folks didn't have to communicate through text messaging and computers. She values real connections and seeks them out regularly. I am sad when I see families sitting down together playing on devices instead of engaging. I'm worried about what will happen to their imagination and their creativity & what this means for the future of humanity. Thank you for posting your insights, Scott. Thanks for letting me share my story here, too.

    1. Very insightful and interesting to hear the longitudinal view from a mother's perspective. My dad and I would also bring home a big box of books from the library. Library night was one of the best nights of the week when I was little. Thank you for commenting!

  2. Nice. I just read the mombrarian blog posted by a friend yesterday, and I was thought, "Huh, I hadn't thought of it this way..." But now you fire back. Nice debate. :)

  3. I don't think it's evil to give your kids that stuff, but I'm glad we don't have any of those devices in our home.. Reading say, Charlotte's Web, on a screen vs.in a book is not the issue (as mombrarian tends to imply), but the more important issue is whether these devices are replacing our relationships and life skills. Our two kids will inevitably be exposed to video games, ipads,etc.,regardless of our stance. Parents have more of a responsibility than ever to protect family dinners, game night, playtime and face time. Our three year old watches Netflix and talks to Grandma on a cell phone, but she also has tons of art supplies, helps me chef it up in the kitchen, and waters Daddy's plants. It's up to us to set boundaries with technology and maximize exposure to what's real.