Tuesday, November 3, 2009

What Age Technology?

I can remember a time when I would get a good chuckle out of listening to my mom talk about "using the computer". Because she never used it. Ever. I even clearly remember teaching her how to double click.

"You have to click the mouse faster, Mom. Two clicks. Tap-tap. I don't KNOW why it's two clicks instead of one. It just IS. No, you only clicked it once. Now you have to do it again. No, not once more - TWICE MORE. Yes, I know, now it's like 3 clicks, but trust me, the computer will ignore the first "slow click". Okay, sure, the computer isn't human and doesn't have a brain. But it knows a double click when it gets one."

So now, I am ashamed to admit that I am an old fart when it comes to technology. Yes, I have an MP3 player that I love, but it's almost 3 years old. It is a 1 gig player, with a teensy weensy screen (not for videos, just for song titles). I know how to download songs, but I have always wondered about podcasts. Are they free or do I pay for them? And, I use Twitter but what is Tweet Deck? When it comes to my computer, what is cache? What are cookies? I can't figure out if they are good or bad? Do I want them or should I get rid of them?

So, considering that clearly the next generation is getting a chuckle out of me the same way I was amused by my own mother, maybe they are the ones who are better suited for the latest technological gadgets.

But, as more and more of my friends buy these electronic gifts for their children, I am simply left more and more surprised. I have one friend who bought her son a laptop - one of those with a 10-inch screen - when he was 9. And, we all know kids who have iPods and cell phones. And, for that matter, I think my kids are the only ones in America left who don't have a Nintendo DS.

I think my husband and I have fought putting technology into our childrens' young hands because we want to keep the control with us, not with the advertisers/celebrities/internet/peers that will reach them through these hand-held gadgets. But what age is appropriate to give a child these machines? What do you think?

I mean, no one can argue that a cell phone would provide a measure of safety for a child going out alone or with friends, unchaperoned. But, is a child mature enough to keep from using the cell phone irresponsibly? And, the internet... My friend's son (the one with the laptop) got to some online site - FOR KIDS - playing some type of trivia game. He entered her cell phone number to get answers for trivia questions and she ended up with a HUGE cell phone bill because all these trivia answers were being texted to her. So, his behavior wasn't really dangerous but clearly he didn't understand how that worked and what type of cell phone charges his actions would incur.

I know, we can't keep our kids protected from everything forever. And, with the right guidance, kids can be taught responsibility and have it modeled for them. But, I think it's one of those times in parenthood where each family just has to make the call on "This is the rule in our house, no matter what the rule is in other houses." Like, what age can kids watch PG-13 movies, or can a child have a phone in their own room? What age is the right age for a kid to have a cell phone, or an iPod, or a laptop? And, does the value of the item play any role in that decision? What makes a cell phone different from a regular phone, an iPod different from a radio/CD player, a laptop different from a TV or a typewriter? Does it have to do with what they are used for? Or does it have to do with gaining the privileges of adulthood too soon?

I'm curious. What do you think?


Oysterblogger said...

ok first of all you are funny. second your kids are really cute third congrats on your win at Angies...I love your blog layout and fourth oh your are expecting in 21 days!!! How awesome is that... there are so many blogs out there I love to stumble upon a good one! Good luck with your last three weeks of prego!

StaceyC4 said...

I'm sorry but such hi-tech stuff does not need to be given to a 9 or 10 year old! I don't think a child needs to have a cell phone until they hit middle school - and that's purely for safety reasons. Laptops? That's just not cool. YOu have no way of knowing what they are looking at. Why can't we just let our kids be kids anymore?

Bridgett said...

There are phones for kids that dial like, 4 numbers only (home, 911, etc) that you preset. I remember seeing it and debating when I might want one. Not yet (my oldest is 8 and doesn't go anywhere). As for other technology, eh. We have a DVD player for long trips, but when we're not on long trips it lives in my bedroom for late night nursing star trek next gen watching. We have one tv...Maeve loves to watch old sesame street on youtube, but she's always on Mike's lap. We have a PS2 but Mike is the reason for that...and he's in IT so there are new gadgets and better faster computers all the time, but not really for them.

We are lucky in that there is one computer in Sophia's classroom and all it does is this reading testing program. Nobody's there with more savvy showing Sophia around the internet when the teacher's not looking. I hate it when people say that computers will improve education. They really detract. IMHO.

Jennifer said...

My FOUR year old already wants to know when she can have a DS. She has seen other (older) kids with them. The problem is that she doesn't have the ability to use something like that. We do play video games as a family at home. We won't be getting anything like that until she is much older. Just because she wnts something doesn't mean she needs it.

I don't think it is just technology. I think kids are being pushed to grow up too fast in all areas of life except maybe accepting responsibility. I prefer to keep my kids little as long as possible.

Aunt Crazy said...

My kids are 13 and 16. They have cell phones and ipods (that they rarely use) and they've had the handheld games too (way back), BUT, in our home, the rule is if it's daylight, you will be outside playing. The only video game playing, sitting in the house watching tv time is at night or during bad weather. So, while they had some electronics, we controlled how and when they were able to use them. They do not have their own laptops, our family shares one.

McVal said...

My two older kids (15 & 18) have cell phones on my plan. My 9 yo has a hand-me-down cell trac-phone from her brother that she continually loses.
My 15 year old bought a laptop this summer with her detasseling money, so 9 yo decided she needs one too. She saved for 3 months, collecting pop cans that her grandma brought home from her hotel job. Taking them to the redemption place each weekend and just recently earned enough to buy herself one. We're proud of her stick-2itiveness! And it gives my husband a laptop to take on trips when he needs to... handy!

Hot Tub Lizzy said...

I try to run the middle of the road here. I have a cell phone. We have a computer at home. I encourage the girls to get on it to learn how to function on line and on the computer, because that is going to be their future, no matter what kind of profession they choose. We didn't have a video game player until last spring when we got a Wii... and we only got that one because it's not just "sitting on the couch doing thumb exercises"... Once my daughters are doing things outside of the house more (ie sports and stuff) then I will look at getting them VERY restricted cell phones. As for computers, when they are older I can see the value of them having their own laptops, but ALL computers will be used IN THE FAMILY ROOM. There will be no computers in their bedrooms (no TVs either), and there WILL be software installed to keep track of what they do.

As for portable technology... we don't have a DVD in the car and I don't really want one. We had a portable one for a while when they were little for the 3 hour trips in the dark to my mom's house. But now that they can both read, nope... no DVDs... no handheld video games either. Either enjoy the beautiful scenery, read a book or take a nap (I WILL allow IPODS though there are times you just have to suffer through Mom's music because you MIGHT just find something you like - which is why my daughter now is a fan of The Copacabana and Piano Man)

Bear and Bones Mama said...

In my house, we leave the technology alone. We have a TV, and a DVD/VCR, but we only watch 1 or 2 (maybe 3 if mommy really needs it) movies a week. We don't have cable and live in a valley so no reception. We don't have a home computer - tho we are getting one to hold pictures and music - but not games. Someone gave my boy a "webkins" for his birthday last month (he's 5) and he thinks its a cool dragon stuffy. He has no idea it'll talk to the computer, not will I anty up withthat information yet. He's 5!! On that note, we're not ludites. Both DH and I have iPhones, and the kids will play a game or two on them if we need some instant entertainment - like when you're out to dinner and waiting on the meal to come. That happens infrequently because we dont' eat out much. When the 5 year old does play on the iPhone, he becomes OBSESSED and that scares the peanuts out of us because we don't want him to be sucked into video games yet.
I'm not saying i'm perfect or that technology is bad (I work in an IT department), I just don't think that a 5 year old needs to be in front of a laptop or TV or other device yet. I'm sure the time will come when we can't avoid it much, but by then, the hope is he'll play on them but then put it away to read a book or go for a hike.
Exiting soapbox now.

Anna See said...

we are ds-less as well.

i regret letting my kids watch disney channel and nick over the past year. i can tell it is impacting them.

M said...

I totally agree, I just had the (un)fortunate task of teaching my mom how to use an iPod OVER THE PHONE!!

Great blog, Im going to keep reading back if you dont mind.

Nice to meet you!

June Freaking Cleaver said...

My son is 14. No TV in his room (nor ours - we have only one set).

We have two PCs, one in the living room. If he's good, he gets limited use (and I watch what he does).

No cell phone, though he asks for one.

No iPod.

He does have a DS, so I guess that saves him from total social rejection.

I see no reason for him to have all these gadgets.

His bedroom is not a toy-filled paradise. He has books and Legos, and puppets (he wants to be a puppeteer).

He watches DVDs in the living room - so we all suffer through repeated showings of his favorite movies.

He has an autism disorder, as well as bipolar. We have found that he does better if his room is a calm place for time out, reading and sleeping.

He sometimes hates his austere life...but he goes to his room on his own to chill out.

Michelle said...

Glad we all seem to have similar feelings. I think technology is great and kids need to learn how to use it but I think some people are out of control.

My 9 year old would watch TV and play electronics all day if I let him.

I restrict my kids screen time to 30 minutes on school nights and 2 hours on weekends. I always tell them to play outside. Now that is gets dark at 5pm that is harder.

My 9 year old thinks he needs a cell phone and a laptop.

In the past year my kids did receive DS' as gifts. They LOVE them! The older two are both 9. My youngest is almost 7 and in my opinion a bit young though she enjoys it.

We have one 32" TV in our living room. The kids have a 19" back up TV in 1 child's room so they can watch movies if hubby and I want some quiet time downstairs but they honestly only turn that TV one once every week or two.

I let the kids on the laptop time permitting. They have their own log in.

I refuse to get them cell phones until they are older. My biggest argument against cell phone for my kids is that they are NEVER without us or another adult (who has a cell phone). Once they are in middle school and start riding the bus or walking home alone I will probably relent but it will be for emergencies only. I can't stand the 11 or 12 year olds who text all day.