Wednesday, February 22, 2012

App Gap

As a finally pregnant woman and then as a new parent, I was petrified cautious and insecure obedient.

I read the books. I listened to all the recommendations from the experts—you know, the internet.

Here are just a few of the many things I obsessed about recommendations:

No sushi. No sleeping on my back. No cat litter. No deli meat. No unncessary medicine. No alcohol. No coffee. Back to sleep-- Tummy to play. No solids until 4 months. One new food at a time. No eggs, peanut butter, whole milk, or ice cream until one year. Organic when possible.

Please don’t take any of these examples as proof of what a good parent I was. Quite the contrary, I was a neurotic mess. I worried more than I ever thought possible. I did most of these things because I was convinced something bad would happen if I didn’t.

Most of those things have either ceased to be a worry or have become less so over time.

For example, I learned my parents gave Emily and Drew McDonald’s chicken nuggets and I didn’t freak and my kids didn’t break out in hives. (Apparently, Drew responded with a great, big “mmmmm.”) If you have experienced my neuroticism know me, then you know this is a big step.

There is one recommendation, though, that Marty and I have done a pretty decent job of following: no TV before the age of two.

It’s not that we thought they would turn into little Mike Teavees overnight. Nor did we think that no TV would make our kids better than other kids or magically make us better than other parents.

We had various reasons for trying to hold the line and delay the introduction of TV--all of which you’ve probably heard before.

Our “do as I say, not as I do” parenting has worked fairly well so far. While we watch TV, play Words with Friends, post on Facebook, Twitter, and Blogger, send emails, and download apps, the babies play, seemingly oblivious to most of it.

My sister and I caught, red-handed, while on vacation with our Facebook machines

Until recently.

I’ve noticed them noticing the TV.

One of their favorite toys is their “poo-tar.”

Emily and Drew with their poo-tars.

They know how to unlock the i-phone and activate Siri.

When they see the furry red Sesame Street monster, they say “El- MO!”

All of this noticing has me wondering how much longer before we join the ranks of parents who hate watching Yo-Gabba-Gabba for the 15th time.

Then, there is the question of other forms of screen time. How and when should I let Emily and Drew use apps on our phone?

I read an article (online) recently about the increasing amounts of screen time in children. Not shocking. It also discussed the increasing gap between kids who have access to apps and those who don’t—the app gap.

This question of what happens to kids on either side of that gap got me thinking.

Sure. We know the dangers of too much TV, and it’s not difficult to extrapolate that too much app time is probably equally detrimental.

But what about the educational benefits of apps (and even TV)? Am I inadvertently putting Emily and Drew at a disadvantage by withholding my old i-phone? Will I one day look upon the recommendation of no screen time before 2 with the same ambivalence I have about bottle propping and rice cereal?

In moderation, would Emily and Drew benefit from a little _____(help me…I don’t know the names of many cartoons)?

In moderation, would Emily and Drew benefit from a little __________(help me….I don’t know the names of many educational toddler apps)?

What say you, dear Internet experts friends?


MandyE (Twin Trials and Triumphs) said...

We're zero TV with the girls...we don't watch it in front of them at all, and they've never seen anything for kids, save for the waiting room of the pediatrician's office.

I have lovely pictures in my head of family movie nights, but I just can't get there yet. We do just fine without TV right now; I'm afraid on some level that, once we introduce a bit of it, they'll start asking for it.

We also have very few battery-powered toys...the girls have never played on an iPhone (I don't have an iPhone!)...they don't have mini computers...zilch.

I love the imaginative play they have with books and blocks and their kitchen and their train set and their animals and dolls.


I wonder if they'll be behind without some exposure to computers / apps / whatever.

I'm planning to hold the line until they (most likely) start preschool in the fall. I hope I will get some direction from their teachers at that point.

Wish I knew what the "right" answer was! :)

KERRY said...

I think you should parent however you feel you want to, however, don't you just love however's? Some TV shows can be educational, stimulating even with the music, colours and learning. I have the TV on just a little bit for Liam to watch Sesame Street, but he down't just sit there and watch it, he's all over the place so it is mainly for noise in the background. My other two kids have watched TV from as long as I can remember and have always excelled at school. Was it ELMO that taught them? No. But they sure enjoyed watching him sing and dance his little red furry body around :)
Apps and ipads etc are all common in school here nowadays, technology is moving forward so fast that it would probably be detrimental to not allow any usage. But you know, they are still so young so wait and see what they are interested in and take it from there. Good for you for having rules in place and sticking to them :)
Mind you, there are some shows I just wouldn't tune into, you'll see!

Tasha said...

Well I may not be the best to answer this, but it sure has never stopped me before. :) Early on the boys watched TV. All the cable shows and such. But many things changed! I can't remember the last time they watched a "kids" show. And we don't watch much either. When and if we do it is something they can watch with us. And it is NOT a baby/kids show. Most everything is so dumbed down for children(and adults for that matter)these days! In fact I don't think it has been on for two days! I was anti-computer for a long time. It was not until this year the boys started doing things on the computer as well as having a reading program on the computer for our homeschooling. BUT I limit it. I do not want stupid computer kids that can't even write their name because they rarely have a need to use a writing instrument. And don't even get me started on how kids/teenagers LIVE for their beloved phones. I don't have an Ithingy so the boys don't have a clue. Although my phone can do apps I do not have many. I am pretty old fashion in many ways. BUT I do think there are some good educational things out there for children. YOU just have to know what you want and how much time you want to allow. It can be a good thing every once in a while. It was VERY hard to cut them off when we decided to.
I love the picture of them with their computers!! So cute!

Amber said...

We do very little screen time with all my kids. My MIL does not understand why I just don't turn on the TV when I need to get something done. I just think my kids either can help me out or entertain themselves with the millions of toys they have. There is too much on TV that I don't want them to see (I even had to turn off GMA one morning) and I don't want to have to watch every single second of what they watch.

Martine said...

P loves to play and at nearly 2 not totally into tv. I haven't really thought about it because he's not all that into it. He's a huge music lover, so he does enjoy listening and sort of watching Gnomeo & Juliet! He'd rather run, dance and play than waste his time with tv :) he's also not allied to play with iPad or iPhone because when he was 11 mo old he got hold of mine and shattered the screen! I think there will be plenty of time for the young kids to "catch" up!

RoryBore said...

I think, like you say, we can worry ourselves sick over such stuff. There is this growing trend (I blame Baby Einstein - which yes, my kids have seen) where we all want little genuises by the age of 5. And of course it is fine to want the best for your kids. To want them to excel in life. But studies have also shown that these early introductions do not necessarily mean they will excel --- just because they could read and write Before Jrk. Or knew their way around an iPhone or iPad.

Things eventually level off, and study habits will eventually play a HUGE role. Your child can be smarter than a whip, but if they lack the drive and commmitment to excel: all the educational TV and Apps in the world won't help.

I am sure my kids have logged more hours in front of the TV than any expert would say is beneficial. It's always age appropriate and I don't particularly care for stuff that is just pure silly nosense (what exactly is the point to SpongeBob?) Yet, my kids are just fine. They do well in school, they play with friends, they are well behaved, and they still do lots of other things. They play and have great imaginations.

Star Wars has not made them aggressive towards other kids. They don't burp their ABC's at dinner because Hammy the Squirrel can. Dora and Backyardigans have reigned supreme here for years. And I do like them because they rely greatly on a child's imagination. We are also big fans of the Kratt Brothers here: Zoobomafoo or Wild Kratts if your children like animals. And my daughters love Mickey Mouse Clubhouse - which sucks huge because the Hot Dog song will be in my head for days!

I think it is better to be well-rounded, than to soley focus on Learning. Not everything has to be a "teachable moment." I think far more important is what they learn when watching US - then anything on the TV.

Tami said...

When I first saw the picture of you and your sister, I thought you were praying before a meal. :-D

Nate Shenk said...

I couldn't help but LOL when I read the part about McDonald's chicken nuggets because that very same thing happened to my sister. My older sister is a new mother and her daughter is now 3 and my dad, when they were visiting, took her to McDonalds....without telling my sister what they were doing. When she found out he had given her McDonald's she flipped out...and I'm just now realizing that this is probably one of those things that is only funny when you're there...but oh well. Loved this post :)

christina said...

really, before age one, i TOTALLY agree with the "experts" about TV. i just don't see the reason to expose a child under 1 to TV. i'm not saying a TV should be turned off if you're at someone's house or something, i'm just saying i don't see the need to plop a baby in front of one. and yeah, i guess before two would be ideal but harder than one.

my goal was to keep her away from it for two years but i failed. at 15 months old, i succumbed and started letting her watch a couple shows after school. she wasn't getting ANY naps at school and was "on" all day (they have no tv's) so when we got home, she was spent. yet she didn't want to nap because bedtime was a couple hours away. so she was very unhappy (read: TIRED). then one day, i turned on the TV. i HATE the way she gets sucked in, but a year later, it's part of our routine and i have no (more) guilt. the shows i allow are ones that have actually taught her things (colors, Chinese, numbers, shapes). and, again, she's "on" all day every day at school.

i would think it might be easier to keep the TV off with twins since they could play (or fight? hehe) with one another as a form of entertainment?? i dunno. all i know is if you turn it on, be prepared for them asking you ALL THE TIME to turn it on (hence why i say it's part of our routine now- during the week... weekends we're pretty TV free).

jen@ living a full life said...

To be perfectly honest my kids are grown; but way back in the stone age when they were little, they rarely watched tv. They played, with each other, went to the park, played outside in the yard, colored, all different types of toys- both educational and not.
I do happen to think however moderation is the trick for all things! I'm thinking if I was raising my kids now I'd teach them to use all modern technology and use it to their advantage but I wouldn't do that to the exclusion to all the other things my kids did back in my cave way back when :)

Always Heather said...

I'm a bad she is our third child... for my first I was a mess trying to follow all the rules.. the second (although my step-son since age 3) watched way too much we limited it and did other things.. this daughter..whatever.. I don't even care.. lol. She plays alot..she's active..she plays outside..she's at daycare all day with no I'm not concerned.. they all seem to be developing the same.. ironically my first child where I was neurotic was diagnosed with OCD at age 7.. so hmmm... maybe it was my OCD tendencies with him.. I'm not sure.. you're doing the right thing for your child if you think you are.. that's the only answer I have.. you're obviously a good mommy..that's what they'll remember!

Kristy said...

My kid calls it the pu-ter too! Don't you love it.

Jen W said...

We were a no TV before 2 family too, but sometime a couple months before (I could look it up, but I am lazy) they turned 2 we started with 1 show then off. They LOVE Yo Gabba Gabba (and we do too, we even listen to the songs in the car.) and slowly we added a few other things. We don't have TV service like cable or satellite, we use Netflix and iTunes, so NO COMMERCIALS. We can pick and choose what they watch. They watch Pixar Movies ad infinitum and truly it is the only way I can get any household chores done. When they were 18 months or even 2, they were content to play with toys and flp thru books. Now at 2+ a couple of months they are INTO EVERYTHING. They know when they don't have my full attention and that is when they get into the things that are forbidden. So I totally use TV to captivate them so I can do selfish things like laundry, shower, dishes, cooking.

But here's the thing. They have learned A TON from TV. We have well-selcted shows, they sing songs and repeat the lessons they have learned. "Try it, You'll Like it" from Yo Gabba Gabba is a constant refrain in our house.

Now, they are NOT allowed to use our phones. Not because of screen time, only because I am a former Apple employee and I saw a million broken iPhones due to "My kid did XYZ" so no, my $600 phone is off limits, just like my iPad, my DSLR and pretty much anything else that I can't afford to just buy a new one.

Miss Megan said...

Wow, good question! And lots of good responses!
We were in the same boat - no TV until age two. BUT...we normally have the TV on in the background and recently our girls have started taking notice. Not much notice, but if a commercial comes on with furry creatures or singing, the girls drop what they are doing and stare at the TV. So, we decided to allow the girls some Sesame Street time. So far they aren't really interested...they watch maybe for 10 minutes max. I think that's plenty for now. They don't get to watch anything else (except the news with us...)
As for the apps...yeah, our girls don't have access to our phones or computers much yet at all, and I am concerned about the same thing. They NEED to know how to work this stuff...but how early is too early? And how early do they need exposure to be able to function in the real world well? That is the question for us too! I think you just do the best you can, and I suspect maybe you just know when the time is right? We just knew a week or two ago that we could let them watch a little bit of Sesame that right wrong or indifferent...I suspect we will get there eventually with the apps too =)

Dvr Dame said...

Good post! I feel as long as you limit computer and TV time it's all good. And if you let them watch educational shows you don't feel too guilty.

irishtwinsmommababybook said...

You are your biggest critic!! And are doing a great job. Sprout TV is probably the best channel for kids and the one with the least annoying shows. :)

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