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The iGeneration: Kids and Technology

8.8 iPads were sold per hour per store on Black Friday. That’s an amazing stat, and I bet an equally amazing stat would be how many of those iPads were bought for kids under 10. I’m also thinking that, if they’re anything like me, parents who purchase iPads for their children as holiday gifts are also giving themselves the gift of winning back control over their own iPads, which their children have been monopolizing.

I’m one of those parents who is guilty of the “pass-back” effect, (I heard it was called this from an article in USA Today), which is when an adult hands over an electronic device to a child. At first I was just happy to find some peace for a few minutes (or hours, I admit), largely due to the plethora of apps geared to kids – double those targeting adults (also found in USA Today article).

Eventually, of course, I want my iPad back, and so the quandary begins. Blissful quiet or the satisfaction of doing whatever I need to do on the iPad? And, then I think, I don’t have to choose: I can just buy an iPad for each of us. I know I’m not the first one to hit upon this. Mike Elgan, Computerworld magazine columnist, dubbed the iPad as the children’s toy of the year. Apple’s computer tablet was introduced in April and sold more than 3 million units in the first 80 days.

“If the iPhone was natural for children, the iPad will be even more natural, simply because it’s larger,” Elgan wrote. “I think the iPad will spark a revolution in children’s culture. I’m convinced that starting this year, and especially next year, iPads will be the No. 1 most requested holiday and birthday gift by everyone under the age of 18, and especially under the age of 12.”

Now add this layer to the conversation: When people are talking about young children, we mean YOUNG children – as young as two or three years old. I know my 18 month little boy loves to swipe his fingers across the iPad screen to make the cheerful yellow school bus doors open and close or the wheels on the bus move round and round. And I found out about that app (Wheels on the Bus) from other enthusiastic parents who also were looking for a few minutes of non-pandemonium, and who thought it was cute to watch their little ones interact with iPads.

So, as a parent, of course, I ask myself: What is the price of distracting my kids with technology long term? According to some of the research, the price could be that my kids are, well, distracted with technology long term. The November 21 cover story for the New York Times, “Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction,” says that students often juggle homework and entertainment (and that that’s not good). The Kaiser Family Foundation found earlier this year that half of students from 8 to 18 are using the Internet, watching TV or using some other form of media either “most” (31 percent) or “some” (25 percent) of the time that they are doing homework.

Research like this doesn’t alarm or discourage me, but it does remind me that I play an important role regarding technology in the lives of my children. And, truly, I’m all for it. “It” being iPads, iPhones, apps, Wii, etc. and kids’ use of them. To me, it’s just how life is done these days. Kids today will never know a world without computers. Technology is part of the fabric of life. It’s not some extra. It’s as essential as driving a car (because computers are now being manufactured as part of cars) or cooking dinner (because there are refrigerators and stoves and microwaves that talk to you). You know what I mean.

And, yes, it’s true: I know tons of kids who are not interested in sitting in class or doing homework – and they should be. But, was any kid really ever excited about doing this? I know plenty of kids who are distracted by editing home-made movies and making music or talking with friends. They’re pretty cool kids. I have a feeling they’re going to be pretty darn successful in life.

The above article first appeared in the Good Company blog at Tribe, Inc.

Comment by Ellen Lebowitz, posted 12/14/2010, 3:53 PM:

Yes, this is definitely an interesting post about an interesting and timely topic. Technology is a huge part of our life and The Online Mom seems to cover tech issues broadly for its audience. And, I'm not even a mom. Thank you.
Comment by Christina S., posted 12/13/2010, 11:20 AM:

Interesting post, I really enjoyed reading it. Also, couldn't agree more that "Technology is part of the fabric of life." -Christina S. Kabongo.com Team Member
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