As I was tucking in my 10 year old daughter tonight, she dropped the bomb.
“Everyone in my class has an iPod but me.”
I’m sure it’s true. In fact, I was surprised she wasn’t asking me for a cell phone. Two kids in her class are getting the iPhone 5. I’ve seen kids at dismissal playing with their iPads. I knew that this was going to become an issue soon.
I also know that this is an age-old problem. I remember complaining to my mother that I was the only kid in class without a Walkman. I’m sure she complained to her mother that she was the only kid in her class without a transistor radio. Somewhere in history there was some kid that complained to her mother that she was the only kid without that new-fangled “wheel” thing.
But I can’t simply respond with the stock, “And if everyone was jumping off a bridge, would you do that too?” Because, really, my family is all over the iToys. I have an iPad. We use an iMac. And though my phone is still a Droid, when my contract is up I will most likely get the iPhone5.
No. My reason for keeping the iStuff at bay for a bit longer is because I’ve noticed something alarming about the way kids with tech-toys play.
Sure, they play lots of games – Angry Birds, Cut the Rope, Bejeweled Blitz. I have some educational Apps on my iPad that my kids use. But the real “play” – the creating worlds with cardboard boxes, the building forts in the living room, the death-defying challenge of “Lava” on a rainy day – those things are starting to disappear. It makes me wonder if kids are forgetting how to play. And maybe parents are forgetting how to play with their kids.
If you give a kid an iPad, she’ll want an App to go with it
So you’ll buy her Angry Birds. But then she’ll want Jet Pack Joy Ride
So you get her Jet Pack Joyride, but then she’ll need some virtual coins.
You buy her the coins, and she leaves you alone for hours.
Maybe that’s the real problem. It’s so tempting to give a kid a game and let them play, and play, and play while you do the dishes, or empty a closet, or write another chapter. But it’s like taking a piece of that creativity that is innate in every kid and just crushing it. Instead of telling them to find a game, to make one up, they look to download it. The forts in the den become the virtual forts in Minecraft.
I have rules about the computer in our house. We keep the computer where we can see it. There are parental controls. And so, how can I hand her a small device that has unlimited, unmonitored, unchecked internet access? And why would any parent want to do that?
Perhaps it’s just me getting older. Maybe as I’ve aged I’ve become that person that just wants to say, “If everyone jumped off the bridge, would you?” Maybe I’m out of touch with the current reality.
But I think I am in touch with it. And that’s what worries me.
I know I will probably get my daughter an iPod. And I know she won’t be happy that it’s a “shuffle” and not the “touch.” But I also know that more than keeping with the times and accepting the new reality, I want my kids to have a chance to create worlds of their own. To enjoy books. To recognize the difference between writing on a piece of paper and typing on a Mac.
I want them to remember that. So when their kids ask for whatever new-top-of-the-line-I-must-have-it gadget, they will sigh, scratch their heads, and say those famous words:
“And if everyone was jumping off a bridge….”