Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The ipad: a parent's best friend... but am I feeding my child's addiction?

Ahhh the beloved ipad. 
I have such a love-hate relationship with this lovely device. On one hand it has saved me from insanity as I desperately have handed it over to my toddler to avoid meltdown.  But on the other I have began to notice something... The more I was handing it over to keep him entertained- the more I noticed he needed it. He craved it. It was all he could think about. His friends would come over to play and he would ask, "Mom can we play with the ipad?" At first it was cute to see three little boys huddled around an ipad taking turns in playing their favorite games...but when the ipad became more exciting then the great big sandbox we have in our backyard...I began to doubt. I began purposefully leaving it on so the battery would drain..."oh shoot- no more battery." Somehow they always could accept that answer.

It wasn't until one day that I had a deadline that needed to accomplish... and I grabbed  old trusty and found out it was dead...blast- not when I need it! Well, maybe I could have him work on a  puzzle or read a book while I finished up. 

Me: "Hey buddy- mommy has to finish up a project real quick- would you like to read a book or do a puzzle by yourself for a moment."

Him: blank stare.

Me: "Um, wow this book looks fun and it even has buttons you can press to listen to the noises."

Him: blank stare and puzzled expression. "I want you to read it to me."

Me: "Have you ever looked at a book by yourself before?"

Him: shook his head. "No."

At that moment, I realized oh my... my child has never looked through a book by himself before! I have always been there with him. I have never given him the opportunity to entertain himself because I am either doing it or relying on electronics or disney jr. to do it for him.

Something had to change...and I realized then that it had to start with me. 

So... I was brave... I unplugged. 

Our family detoxed for a week without any TV or electronic gaming device. Oh the tears and sadness that occurred when I informed Little Man about missing his favorite tv program despite the fact that I had been talking about it days prior. But a few days later and spending the days outside at the park in the warm weather, going to the zoo and painting, I noticed something... he stopped asking. He was so cheerful... he was creating stories in his head and even entertaining himself without me intervening. I could not believe it. I noticed less meltdowns and irritability. He literally transformed over night. Was it the decrease in screen time or was it that we had even more opportunities to be connected?

I have loved it so much that the TV is still "out of order."

I know there are a few studies like this one on the effects occurring in toddlers and children who spend several hours a day on the ipad. The children are showing signs of addiction and increased behavioral problems... which I think I began to see in my child.

I am not saying ipads and technology are bad. It has provided so much learning and knowledge just at our fingertips...but could there also be problems that we won't know until later. Will this generation of kids be called "the Ipad generation" and have funny little quarks that we didn't realize was correlated to an early introduction to screens. 

As a person who believes strongly that play is so important and a child's way of expressing and learning- I worry. I love to see healthy creative play... but creativity and imagination have to be worked out like a muscle- will those muscles weaken? Will children stop wanting to go outside... interact with one another... pretend?

I don't know yet...but what I do know is that if we use these devices constantly to calm our children or entertain them- they will never learn how to soothe and entertain themselves. 

How did our parents do it? 

I think we will be seeing more studies being done as we understand more the effects of our children's development. For now- I have set some guidelines and boundaries while he is little to make sure those creative and imagination muscles aren't weakened. I will let you know what I have decided to do soon. I am still refining. 

Here is another ABC news article done titled: Toddler obsessed with ipads: Could it hurt their development? 

What are your thoughts? What are your limits with ipads and electronic games?



  1. Love this post. I too have been worried about so much screen time for my 2 yr old and 17 mo. I think I am going to start making "Out of Order" hours for our TV.

  2. I notice a definite change in behavior when I unplug. I have three boys (5, 4, and almost 3) and if we can go a few days without screen time the change in behavior is remarkable. Even letting them watch one show makes them whinier and more grumpy. However, I've noticed it also applies to me. If I am annoyed that my children are distracting me from my computer, what message does that send? It goes so much better if we ALL unplug. That was one of the main reasons I was very reluctant to get an iPhone, even though I knew all the ways they could help me. I didn't want to always have access at my fingertips, and to be honest, now that I have an iPhone, it is something I struggle with. We have just started a new tradition of only watching a movie once a week. It's something we all choose together, and we really make it a family event with special snacks and a fun dinner. I'm hoping that if we make it a special thing, it will be easier to say "No" the rest of the week. It was also great because last week instead of a movie we chose to do Game Night and that was a lot of fun! So hopefully we will only have movies once every two weeks.

    Now here is my big dilemma...I am currently 6 months pregnant (with our fourth boy!) and I have had to go on almost bed rest due to a pinched nerve in my leg. I am really struggling with feeling productive when I can't get basic housekeeping done, but I also haven't figured out how to entertain my children while I am less mobile. I also know there is a lot of things I can do on the computer to be productive, but then I am having screen time and not interacting with my kids. So...not sure what we'll do for the next three months!