I dislike electronic toys for children, such as so-called “educational” toys made by LeapFrog. As I have stated before, I think that children learn more from playing with wooden blocks than any battery operated gizmo can teach them, but what about other tech devices, such as iPods and digital cameras? At what is it appropriate for a child have these “grown up” toys?
Ever since my daughter could hold our camera, we have shared it with her. Last year, her grandmother decided to buy her a digital camera for her birthday. At first, we looked at several digital cameras designed for children; however, in the end, we decided to buy her a real camera that would last her many years. The quality of children’s digital cameras is poor, and we have made a commitment to giving gifts that last our children as many years as possible. As an eco mom, I won’t buy junky toy emulations of technology designed for children that will only break and end up in a landfill. As an artist and a photographer, I felt a good camera would help my young child develop her artistic expression. Her compositions amaze me, and her photographs help me view the world through her “lens”. I can see what is important or interesting to her by what she photographs.
For two years now, my daughter has been asking for an iPod. Even though we live in a very small community, and she only goes to school with seven other children in a one room schoolhouse, iPods are the hottest things around. For two years I have stalled, not only because of the expense, but because of the risk of hearing loss associated with ear buds and headphones. Then I realized, I got my first stereo in second grade for my Catholic first communion. It was a gem of an eight-track, and my first tapes were Adam Ant’s “Strip”, John and Yoko Ono’s “Double Fantasy”, and John Denver’s “Greatest Hits”. Music has always been a big part of my life, as you can tell from my first eclectic choices, and my daughter has already formed her own opinions about music (her favorite song is off Music for a Green Planet). Since Eco Dad doesn’t use his iPod, we decided to let her have it and gave her a docking speaker to play it in her room. This has been a GODSEND, as her little brother and her spend hours in her room listening to music and playing now (with blocks!).
We don’t have cell phone coverage in our area, and given the safety concerns regarding cell phone useage, I doubt I would let my seven-year-old daughter have her own phone. At some point, I can see it would be convenient to be able to reach her at anytime when she is older and away from home, but at what age is this appropriate? I wouldn’t want to prematurely encourage the disconnect from family that happens when the social world takes over for teenagers by giving my child a cell phone.
Mark Randall, vice president of the toy and baby store at Amazon.com, explains why kids want tech devices, “Children want to emulate their parents, whether they are on the phone, using a digital camera or on their computers and online.” My ipod and camera are a big part of my life, as is my laptop, so it only make sense my daughter would want to share these devices. My daughter hasn’t asked for her own laptop yet, but I suppose that is next. I don’t want tech devices to take my children’s childhood away prematurely, so I ask our readers: What age do you think is appropriate for a child to enter the world of technology?
Image: blonboy on Flickr under a Creative Commons License