How many times have we seen a parent hand over a smart device to their little one (by default) every time they need to pacify a fussy or grouchy child? It’s also a common sight to see lots and lots of young children being given a device at family meals just to keep them quiet and entertained while the adults chat away undisturbed? I also know parents who would put in twice the effort to make sure that these devices were pre-packed into their bags along with all their children’s outing essentials before leaving the house.
Most times, I hear parents say that they feel really bad to have to resort to giving their child a device ……. just before they start trying to console themselves by telling me about all the cool, developmentally appropriate apps they have on their devices which stimulates thinking and intelligence.
Well, here’s the thing, if you feel bad about it, you are probably right! Your instincts are trying to tell you that something is amiss but it’s often quite hard to figure out why because it’s just common sense that it’s far easier to give in especially at desperate times.
So if you want to find out why you are feeling bad about it, here are a few possible reasons….
1) When your child is bored and throws a fuss at a restaurant, it is probably because he needs to stretch and to move around, and that is natural because young children need movement to learn and to grow and giving him an iPad will not meet his needs for whole body movement.
2) When your child needs your attention and affection, because it’s natural for their social and emotional development and she starts interrupting you, (but you want to spend some time chatting with your friends) giving her an iPad will not help her meet her needs for affection.
3) When your children start arguing and fighting because they are trying to experiment with conflict resolution strategies and problem solving skills, giving them an iPad will not help them learn these social skills (unless they start fighting over the iPad too!).
To add to this list…..
Giving them a device doesn’t teach them to wait and be patient. When you acknowledge their needs and explain to them that you are busy with something at the moment and will get back to them as soon as you can, you are teaching them to wait and be patient and to be sensitive to the feelings and needs of others.
Giving them a device also does very little in teaching them to be creative and to learn to take the initiative in finding their own entertainment. it teaches them to be lazy and makes them feel like it’s your job to keep them entertained (with an ipad) and they stop learning to do it themselves.
If you take a look at all these qualities (being patient, creative, taking initiative, being considerate, being able to get along with others and problem solving) collectively…..these are all very important skills and concepts which are important for our children to grow up to be well adjusted, happy and successful adults.
If we seize these teachable moments and do our part in teaching our children these qualities, and take the time to help them meet their learning and developmental needs; perhaps if we prioritize and did these things first, then we won’t feel bad about handing them a device. So the next time you think about handing your device over to your child, it may be a good idea to ask yourself if you should seize the moment to find out what you children need and make the best of the opportunity.