Jude isn’t watching TV yet, but he is all about the iPad/iPhone.
At first, I was skeptical about letting him use these devices for more than a few minutes. I was worried it might warp his brain or help him on his way to a short attention span, but his doctor assured me that those kids/learning apps couldn’t hurt him:
“Active play is best,” he said, validating my feelings that Jude should be running around the house physically playing rather than spending too long in a sedentary, trance-like state, “but the iPad and items like that can teach a great deal. Plus, they’re an inevitable part of his future.”
So, I softened.
As Jude gets older and his vocabulary gets more advanced, I see more advantages to his using a tablet. For example, Jude is into this amazing (free) app called Endless Alphabet. It’s a spelling game of sorts, in which a child is prompted to piece together the letters of a word in order to spell it correctly (with a little help from some sound effects). After a week of using this application, Jude was adept at dragging the correct letters to their correct position on the screen, something that stunned Mike and I. Less than a week after that, he was recognizing and sounding out the letters all on his own. Yesterday morning, he was repeating all the words back to the screen after the voice-over read them aloud/put them in a sentence. How could I argue against something that was teaching him the alphabet and furthering his exposure to new words?
Answer: I cannot.
On weekday mornings, Mike leaves for work before I have to get ready for my day, which means that Jude is relegated to the Pack ‘n Play. It is the only way to keep him safe when I shower, and though he entertains himself quite well on most mornings, he is not always thrilled to be confined to a small space. He’s got some books and toys in there, but they are interesting only to a point. Post-shower, I talk to him or hand him my comb or other (safe) items that he can explore, but even then, it’s hard to keep him happy for the whole process.
Yes, it takes me a while to get ready. I’m not saying I need a lot of work; I just tend to move kind of slow in the morning.
Yesterday morning, Jude was behaving so well, but towards what I call the “home stretch” (read: flat iron hair and add smoothing products, etc.), he was leaning against the side of the playard, looking bored.
“You want the iPhone?” I said, hoping to perk him up a bit. Usually, Mike and I don’t give him any item that he can spike against the bathroom floor and shatter–based on experience, of course–but he was so calm and peaceful that I thought: “What the heck?“
“Yes,” he said, reaching out his hands for the device.
Even though he could navigate the screen on his own, I opened Endless Alphabet for him and let him go to it as I re-focused on finishing up my hair. He sat and submerged himself in his activity while I stood and engaged in mine, and it wasn’t until I became conscious of a pair of unfamiliar voices that I was drawn out of my bubble.
I looked over at Jude, who was transfixed my the iPhone screen. Somehow, he wandered over to the NBC app, and there he was deep into a video clip from a recent episode of Days of Our Lives. He was watching so intently, that it was almost as if he understood the dramatic scheming and plotting that was unfolding before him.
At least it wasn’t a love scene.
I guess the issue isn’t whether or not he uses an iPad or an iPhone or someday watches the TV. It’s about the parental supervision that accompanies these activities. I never, ever want to suffocate or smother, but today’s accidental viewing of Days of Our Lives is tomorrow’s deliberate perusing of the nudie channel. At least if I’m not just around but am present in his life, I’ll be there to answer the right questions as he continues to learn and grow and to try and find his way.