Categories Technology and Children

Parenting: How Much Technology is Acceptable for Young Children

When my five-year-old told me two years ago that he needed a Nintendo DS I was shocked. At his age I didn’t even know what a Gameboy was, much less that I needed to have one. My natural response was “No”, but I soon realized how many kids his age already had one. How crazy is that, I thought.

When I took a closer look I almost began to question my decision as I saw more and more children under the age of ten, who owned cell phones – pretty nice ones, too – a Nintendo DS, an Xbox and who knows what else.

And I had to admit, every now and then when we were out and about I also used my phone to keep my son occupied by letting him play little games on it. But where should I draw the line?

Remembering my own childhood, I grew up playing outdoors from the second I woke up until the sun went down. I played in the dirt, in the sand box, climbed on trees, rode my bike and did whatever else would cross my minds.

I realize that times have changed and that I can’t let my son play outside the way we used to back in the day. Things got more dangerous. But is technology really the solution?

Personally I feel like there is still so much for him to explore in the “real world” and with his own imagination that I don’t think he should be playing mindless video games, just to keep him occupied and quiet.

One day I watched him try to play the Wii and he was horrible at it. Naturally so, since he really hadn’t been exposed to video games. But when I watched the little boy next to him, who was the same age, and saw how effortlessly he maneuvered through the levels, levels that I myself would have had problems with, I wondered if I might be holding my child back in a world that relies on technology.

Let’s face it: by the time he turns 18 even more things and processes will be computerized and you need to have a certain amount of technological understanding in order to even use most of it.

I finally caved and bought him a handheld console. Not one that is mainly for fun and entertainment but a Leapster from LeapFrog that will only allow him to play learning games. He doesn’t know the difference and loves it. And while he is learning something he is also training some basic technological skills. We also bought him a learning game on the Wii and one on the Xbox.

That is definitely something my husband enjoys playing with him, something they can bond over. Me, I still prefer to do hands-on activities with him, like crafting or playing a board game. I guess each parent has to find their own balance between “old-fashioned” activities and whatever technology has to offer.

And at the end of the day, instead of a TV lulling him to sleep, my husband and I still read him a story every night, say his prayers with him and sing him a song – the old-fashioned way.

 

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