Saturday, February 26, 2011

The ipad generation

I just read this article in the NYT from a concerned parent worried about her 6 year old's addiction to ipad.  As parents in this high tech world, honestly, I feel combating distractions and playing the authority figure who decides how much is too much when it comes to screen time of sorts is getting to be a little challenging.  And this when my kids are just 5.5 and 3.5 years old.  I have not felt the challenge yet.  But I know it has started.

When KB was 3 years old, my friend used to often ask me how I managed to never turn the TV on for him.  I never found it difficult because somehow he didn't ask for it, I had not exposed him to it much and I knew that when he is five or so and he gets into it, he will anyway get plenty of it.  If I had to cook, I would for example set out two little jars of water and some smaller cups and spoons and he would pour/transfer/spill etc but it would keep him occupied for a long time.  He was a calmer child then.  He turned four, became this hyper energetic child, moved to a different preschool where his closest buddy was a star wars fan and would bring his toy light saber.  KB got into it.  At that time I had also introduced him to a couple of PBS TV shows - Dinosaur train and Sid the science kid - because KB was crazy about dinosaurs (still is to some extent) and he loved Sid the science kid which came on just before Dinosaur train.  We only have basic cable in our house so the kids anyway didn't have nick jr or Disney channel etc to watch.  Aside from these shows KB got into Star wars and Scooby doo.  Being the obsessive kid that he is, he totally got into "Star wars".  I didn't think too much about letting him watch it since he read Star wars books and his close friend also watched it without getting affected by it.  My niece gifted him this big Star wars dictionary or encylopedia, I can't remember - but KB would make us read all that useless information to him but would just sound like a star wars groupie remembering all kinds of details of Sith lords and who has what kind of light saber and what not.  But some good came of it.  He learned a lot of new words.  And Yoda became a good role model for him.  He still considers himself like Yoda when it comes to mind control.  That controlling one's mind can be a very powerful tool.  When he got frustrated say while trying to do a little math problem or a puzzle - he is that way - too hard on himself - tearing up if he can't do it on his own without help - he would try and control his tears saying he is like Yoda.  When he felt anxious about new situations, I would remind him how he is like Yoda and he can control his fears.  And many a time he did work on himself as if he was Yoda.  And then suddenly one day he outgrew the star wars madness.  Moved on to Scooby doo.  My sister, the indulgent aunt that she is, immediately mailed him a scooby-doo DVD set.  From then on, he was crazy about Scooby-doo.  He got a mystery machine along with the characters as a gift.  He played with it every morning after his shower even on school days.  Just a quick hello and time with the characters.  He got a whole bunch of books and it motivated him to read on his own as well since he enjoyed those books.  He moved on from that phase to the Super hero phase - dressed up as Iron man for Halloween and would draw those characters etc etc.  And then moved on from that phase to Ben 10 addiction.  He is totally into it now and as soon as he gets back from school he "slaps on" (as he puts it) his "Omnitrix" and wears it until he goes to bed.  He transforms into different aliens for different situations.  He turns into grey matter when he does his math work or XLR8 when he needs to play outside.  He made an "An I can read book" "Ben 10 guide" on his own - drawing about 17 characters and writing about each of them one the other side of the page.  He was so proud his first book that he created of his own free will.  He is still in the Ben 10 phase - frankly I am getting so tired of it - am waiting for him to outgrow this phase.  All this happens on the side apart from his school work etc - without my ever having to tell him - he will never ask to take his Omnitrix to school.  He constantly asks me about words he learned from Ben 10 - armor, enhanced, admire, priority, astounding, demise - and he points it out to me when I refer to Ben 10 as "Ottandi Ben 10" (useless Ben 10) - Mamma, I do learn things from Ben 10 too! :)

KG who is all of 3.5 now and started preschool only in September has watched all the shows that KB has watched and has listened to me read all kinds of books that I read to KB - Magic tree house series, Flat Stanley series, Magic school bus, and of course all the star wars and scooby books along with all the other non fiction books he reads.  And now if I tell her I am going to eat her up because she is so delicious, she says, Mamma, I am going to become Humongosaur (a Ben 10 alien form) and defeat you!  Which ever phase KB is in, she is in.  And goes with the flow.  Her preschool teacher is this awesome teacher who is a complete natural with kids.  She is also a very wealthy woman whose children are all grown up and is generally in a very happy place in life now.  She is also a huge fan of the ipad.  She has bought several apps for her class kids to use.  KG's teacher emailed me a few weeks back with photos of her playing with the i-pad and said "She is just amazing with it".  She does this snake puzzle by setting it at the highest difficulty level and memory match games etc with great ease.  As I walked in one day to pick her up from school, her teacher Ms.G said to me "Just watch.  She is totally in charge here.  She lets each kid finish their turn, takes the i-pad back from them, goes back to the main page, picks the game, sets the difficulty level for that child and gives each one their turn".  And that is exactly what she was doing.  One of the kids got stuck because he pressed the wrong button and he called out to his teacher to help him.  KG just took the i-pad gently from him and pressed a few buttons and went back to the main page and brought it back to where he was before his teacher could even get to it.  Ms.G turned to me and said, "See, I told you, she is totally in charge here.  She is just amazing with it".  May be it is being the second child or it is her nature.  But I don't know if KB would have done all that with that much ease.  He is more careful with it - he would not pull a puzzle piece into a slot that fast - he would pause to make sure it was the right piece.  Even when he plays chess he thinks so much before making his move.  Their inherent nature plays out even in such small things.

Back to my main point.  How much of all this is too much? KB is now getting into nickjr.com games.  KG is getting addicted to morestarfall.com.  And when we buy the i-pad this year, am sure there will more of that to deal with - both in good and bad ways.  Moderation is key.  But even deciding what is moderation is hard when you know they are learning something, enjoying themselves too.  And at least so far when the weather is good and we have time we are always at the park.  I make sure they meet with their friends and play rather than sit and watch videos.  But one fall out from all this is the time to play board games.  Between doing school work, piano practice, chess every now and then, and now these computer games and reading books to them, it is so hard to find time to play board games.  When KB was 3 plus we used to play board games almost every night.  I do feel bad about that.  It is not an easy thing I feel - allocating time for the million things.  While the noise drives me crazy at times, I am still most happy when I see KB and KG playing their pretend games for a long time jumping on our bed and hiding under blankets and what not.  No amount of puzzle solving or learning games on the computer matches the joy I feel when I see them do that.  I had my first computer when I was in graduate school.  From that to seeing these kids playing with i-pads at age three, it is taking some adjustment in deciding what's OK and what's not.  Hopefully the kids will turn out OK! What do you think?

13 comments:

Rohini said...

My brat is allowed an hour of screen time everyday. That includes my iPhone, TV, the iPad and the computer. He usually picks one and spends his hour on that.

noon said...

Hi Ro - That's good. Here it somehow is getting a little out of hand. When KB is playing his comp game and I am busy with some other house work then KG hovers around him and then she takes her turn. And then they want to watch their TV shows also. Screen time is becoming a little more than I would like. Esp on holidays. There are things to do on weekends - so if we don't entertain them they play pretend games for an hour or two but start asking for comp time. It is pretty good that you are able to keep it to one hour.

Anonymous said...

My kids are older (10/8). When they were babies, we stuck with PBS and the occasional Nick Jr show (Blue's Clues!) - Son turned out to be a major sports fan like his father, (Am. football, basketball, baseball, golf - the seasons go on and on, as you know) - and tends to get hooked on whatever game his dad is watching...they also seem to know how to play with any electronic device with no instructions. I don't see their screentime as excessive - about 30 mins a day of "play-time" (At this age, they both have school work on the computer as well) - and plenty of outside play, craft, reading etc.

M

cantaloupes.amma (CA) said...

Moderation is much easier with the first kid ... me thinks. My older one was allowed TV for 30 mins (and these were videos we had borrowed from local library ... we opted out of cable TV) But now kids of different ages, with different interests. Its hard to find that middle ground where both kids like the program... but we try to stick to 30 mins. Weekends are usually longer ... the problem with my kids during this time of the year is they miss outdoor .. it is very hard to keep them occupied and they get bored with repetition.

Anonymous said...

Ah yes, I live in TX - just cold enough that winter is an actual season, but they can still go outside most days! Helps a lot! but yes, moderation is key - and hey every generation seems to have their "addictions" - my mother was rebuked for wanting to listen to Vividh Bharati, I was (am :)) always being yelled at because I would lose myself in a book and forget the world around me, and now it's electronics!

M

noon said...

M - 30 mins a day - I totally wouldn't mind. It's the bargaining and asking for more time that gets to be tiring to refuse etc...sports buff - not sure - how that will turn out...

CA - oh yeah - this is when we are able to get out - if we were stuck indoors like in the east coast - am sure comp/TV time will go up like crazy esp on holidays...

noon said...

M - it's true - every generation had it's thing. Even my aunt used to tell us about how her mom used to put limits on radio time. Be asked to do more house work! I don't remember being given any restrictions explicitly. May be on phone time with friends sometimes. But this generation surely has a lot more distractions to deal with - comp games, video games, TV time, Wii time, play dates...goes on and on...

Anything & Everything said...

Hi! noon, thanks for visiting my blog & I hope its not the last time, you are so right times are changing & kids are maturing at the speed we can't even imagine. My 7yr old has a facebook account, way too ahead then our times.Leave our times I can see the difference between my 7 yr old & 2.5 yr old, she is definitely is more aware of things than my son used to be at this age.

Rohini said...

To be honest, it's because I have help. In your situation, I would probably let my kids watch a lot more...

the mad momma said...

i'm going to agree with Ro. We live very different lives. My kids barely get any TV time because in summer the days are long and we now live in a complex where they play ALL DAY LONG without even coming home for a break. I don't really have specific help from them, but because I have help, I am able to spend time with them and also know that if I am busy at work there is always someone else around ensuring that they dont get into trouble. This in a way works to keep screen time to a minimum. I havent put in guides like Ro because as of now there is no daily screen time at all. If and when I do, i am sure it will be similar to hers.

BangaloreMom said...

Noonie....I think we have a loot of choices these days and more than one way for the kids to learn. And as long as we are paying attention, we can always tell when they are getting too addicted to something.

Earlier kuttan used to watch a looot of cartoon but I actively weaned him off it and now he spends a lot of time playing cricket and on starfall. I have usually seen that these addictions are highly seasonal and if you wait and watch, they usually move on to other things on their own.

noon said...

MM - yes, it's true - very different lives. No help what so ever. KB and KG of course play a lot. But they also watch TV together - which is when I eat and have my tea and make coffee for my FIL all back to back. By then they are done and then I have to get KB to do his work. In the meanwhile entertain KG and keep her from distracting him. Soon after dinner preps start. And so it goes.

BM - you are so right. Everything is a phase. My friend whose daughter is now in a top school told me how she never even thought to put any time restrictions on her daughter's TV watching when she was 5-7 years old. It seems she used to watch TV all the time. She got over it on her own. Became very self motivated. And now she is doing so well! No need to fret really is her opinion.

Neera said...

Oh this is very very close to my heart. You know I wonder about the same things that u do ..Vansh really enjoys spending time on the computer looking at websites abt things that fascinate him like airplane videos, cool phones, and the likes. While he has figured a LOT of things himself with little help from us, in his own way he is learning to use the computer which they are anyways going to use so much. He uses it to pretend play at times to book tickets, working at office, etc. So basically it does set him thinking and his mind working abt something he is crazy abt. But for some reason i don't like it at all. I still prefer the simple play things, the conventional games kids play and discourage him from spending time on the tv/computer. If he bargains for a few minutes and I get busy, he'll never get up for hrs and start watching tom and jerry videos on youtube or some silly cartoons on TV (talking abt India here) and slowly it starts becoming a habit where it reaches a point after 7-8 days that they want to watch it all the time and I have difficulty weaning them off. So I prefer that they don't have any fixed time everyday, so they know that they have to play or do whatever else and occasionally it comes as a treat.