With all due respect to Steve Jobs, as brilliant as he was, I don’t think he ever imagined the power that his iPad would have on society, especially on children. This machine has become my on-call assistant, always ready to entertain my little one, without complaining or asking for a pay increase.
Nonetheless, as convenient as the iPad has proven to be, last week I had a close encounter with the adverse effects of this appliance on my son’s behavior. This made me realize something I already knew, but had forgotten for a while: nothing can replace me in my son’s life. Well… for now that he is five years old, of course.
Two weeks ago my son’s diary folder–the communication medium between his teacher and us parents–came home with two yellow sad stickers, because apparently, he was goofing around and not paying attention. Therefore, my husband and I gave him the speech about being disciplined and listening to his teacher, but deep down I wondered, “He is just acting like a five-year-old, isn’t he?“
Then, last week, I had a formal parent teacher meeting and boy, did things got serious quickly! His kindergartner teacher showed me a few examples of school work in which he received low grades, because he was not listening to the entire instructions to complete the tasks.
Although she explained to me that attention disorder requires longer time to analyze and that only pediatric and psychological assessment can determine if my son has it or not, and at what level, the moment I left the school I got into action mode. The first thing I did, was reading about simple ways to help children focus and get their “real world” organized.
I printed a couple of chore charts for my son–on which he can write a check mark when he completes it–in the morning and afternoon. I wrote in red the tasks for the A.M. (breakfast, make bed, get dressed, brush teeth,) and in blue for the P.M. (snack, one hour TV or iPad, school work, and play time.)
When I finished typing the afternoon list, I felt like the worst mother in the world. I acknowledged that, for over a month, my son had been glued to the iPad, because we had multiple family and work issues that kept us out of our routine. My husband and I failed to provide our son with the time and attention he needed and we took the easy way out, keeping him under an electronic spell.
Internet is flooded with articles related to the side effects of excessive use of tablets and smartphones on young children. These devices take the fall for everything, from interfering with the development of motor and language skills to incapacitating kids’ natural curiosity.
However, demonizing the new technologies and trying to stay in a vintage world is a waste of time. These are the times we are living and just because I grew up without an iPad doesn’t mean my son has to. Besides, used wisely, this tech develops abilities and facilitate learning concepts for children in new interactive ways.
For example, my son has loved to be read to since he was a baby, and even more now thanks to applications like Epic, which features thousands of books and educational videos. Heck! I have learned so much reading with him that I am amazed at how much I know about sharks! Plus, the cost of paper books can add up quickly, same as the clutter.
Whether electronics are good or bad for kids–just like sugar–I really think the key is moderation. I know I wouldn’t leave my son alone in a self-service candy store much less will I leave him unattended in front of the iPad.
Even though my son enjoys playing with the “machines,” if I ask him, “Do you want to play with me?” his eyes sparkle and runs to me laughing. God knows there is no better space shuttle mechanic or helicopter co-pilot than me!
I am not saying that I cured my son’s lack of attention in a three-day period; that is another matter that we have to monitor. But, his overall behavior and concentration while doing school work improved dramatically. In the meantime, I gave the iNanny a well deserved vacation and a new work schedule: only an hour a day plus full benefits. What a job!
Thank you for reading and sharing,
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