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Monday, May 13, 2013

Tablet vs. Placemat: Raising Kids With Technology

I didn’t want to be the kind of parent that just lets their kid watch TV or play video games, just to stop the madness.   I looked at other parents that just let their kids amok and I thought, “Wow, really?”   Sometimes, I’ve found myself falling into that trap, though.   I get home from my hour long commute and just want to escape for a bit so NickJr or Angry Birds can rescue me for awhile. 

Now, we usually play an entirely different game when we eat dinner.   No television, unless we are out a place that has sporting events televised.   No texting, usually, until after dinner.  The usually covers things like, I need to ask that person a question pertaining to the conversation we are having.   We all eat together as a family.  I tend to not waiver on these because it’s the one time of the day we can all sit and be with each other without the trappings of our social and technological lives interfering.   

We have one kid and she’s a handful, to say the least.  She’s too damn smart for being only five and comes up with arguments that would make her an excellent trial lawyer.  She gets bored and when she’s bored she usually takes it out on us.  I don’t mean that I am complaining that she’s needy.  I mean that she’s an evil genius that has figured out the code for our patience.   Don’t believe me, I have an example.

She wanted to go for a walk one day after school.  Now, I’ve been trying to lose weight, so it’s not a bad suggestion.  It was just dark and gloomy and I didn’t want us to be out when the skies finally went pffft.   So, as we’re walking she comments that she wants to go down the big hill in our neighborhood.  I did not.  The reason being, if we go down a big hill, there’s an equally large and steeply graded hill that we have to climb to get to our house.

“But, Daddy, I have all this energy that I need to get rid of.  If I don’t then I’ll be bored when we get home.”
“Kiddo, that’s not exactly my problem, now is it?”
“But, if I’m bored, it WILL be your problem.”

She’s five.  I’m scared.

Needless to say, we took the big hills.

But when we go out, she’s usually content, sitting there with a placemat and some crayons.   She has a vast collection of placemats with art all over one side and ads for home cleanings and excavating on the other.   So, when we went out this past week and brought along her Samsung Tablet, I was a bit disappointed that we caved to this type of distraction.  We usually sit and talk and she colors and really goes into her own little world.   Why are we placating her with this technological?  How dare we?

Then it dawned on me.  The placemats were my tablet.  The placemats were a distraction.  The placemats were used to keep me seated in one place instead of getting us kicked out of a restaurant for standing on the high chair and crowing like a rooster.   True story, though it was my brother that accomplished that task.

What the hell is the difference between a tablet and a placemat?

Well, the obvious is about $179.   Restaurants usually supply you with a placemat and a few crayons.  The tablet can be used to play games.  The placemat uses imagination or creativity.  Quite frankly, they both achieve the same goal.  The problem is, getting the most educational or creative benefits out of technology for your kids.   They also need to understand limits.  When the food arrives, the placemat and crayons get put away as should the tablet or other mobile device.    Maybe have a drawing or paint program for them to use instead of Temple Run 2 or Candy Crush Saga.

Now, I am not a doctor and can’t speak to the possible detrimental side effects of a child of five interacting with a tablet and what games could do to her learning abilities or possibly contribute to attention deficit disorder.   What I do know is that she’s not crowing like a chicken and as long as she doesn’t get in trouble for repeatedly talking in kindergarten she gets to use the tablet after school.

Yep.  She does.

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