Rowan was the very lucky recipient of an iPad for Christmas. I know what you’re thinking: “Your kid is four already, and he’s just NOW getting an iPad?!? Slacker.” Okay, so you were more likely thinking along the lines of: “Why does your four year old need an iPad?” That’s a really great question, thanks for asking.
There are some concerns that children will be less creative when exposed to the world of technology on a regular basis, and I think that’s a valid concern. I understand the value of physically manipulating toys and objects and art supplies, which is why I don’t allow the iPad to replace those things, only supplement them. Rowan has free access to all of his art supplies and his toys of course, while he has to ask to use the iPad. I don’t say yes every time, forcing him to stretch his imagination, even if he whines about being bored. We spend time outside every day, no matter the weather, and he will choose to go out and play over sitting inside with the iPad 100% of the time. If that’s the case, one could easily argue that there is no need for an iPad in the first place. Good argument guys! I’m impressed!
Technology is going to be a central part of our kid’s lives, we might as well help them become comfortable with it now. Rowan can turn on, operate his with ease, and even knows where to get free books to download. Of course I have parental locks on there, so he can only access age-appropriate and pre-approved sites. When I am unavailable to read to him, ie: cooking dinner, he can sit in the kitchen and be read to. (I’m a single mom, and in addition to Rowan, my 93 year old grandmother lives with us. There’s only one of me, and sometimes I need backup.) I confess, I’ve used it to “babysit” my child while I do things around the house, or while waiting at the DMV, or on long car trips. Is it replacing his ability to wait? Is he learning that instant gratification is the only option? I don’t think so. I see plenty of instances where he demonstrates his age-appropriate attention span, even sometimes defies it. I remember one such instance a few weeks ago, where we had to wait almost two hours, and he amused himself with a pencil, a piece of paper, and three pennies. I’m getting off track though. Having a screen available to amuse him is as much of a discipline in patience and control for me as it is for Rowan-maybe even more so for me. As with most things in life, if used in moderation, it’s not a bad thing.
The iPad is a toy, yes, but it’s also a tool. As a homeschooling mother, I run across times where Rowan is reluctant to learn. As with any child there are moments of frustration over not wanting to practice phonics, or learn addition. After struggling through a lesson, he can back up what he just learned with a game involving his work for the day. In some cases he even learns more, as he is more eager to play a game than do a worksheet. He’s hitting all of his educational goals, and exceeding some, in part to the iPad. Games that we can play together-we do. Games that we could play with an actual board-we do. If my child was in a public or private school, there is a good chance he would be using an iPad, and there is a 100% chance he would be using a computer now, or in the very near future. This is no different from that, except the technology is more advanced.
My imagination and resources can only go so far, and what I miss, the iPad fills in. It can provide story books, text books, and magazines that I can’t provide hard copies to. It’s a window to the rest of the world via FaceTime and the internet. It provides art, foreign language, and music lessons that I wouldn’t know how to teach. Let’s face it, it can teach math lessons that I don’t know how to do!
So why does it benefit Rowan to own his very own iPad, instead of just using mine? One of the reasons is that it’s easier for me! I don’t have to worry that he’s online purchasing a 5 million dollar car off of Ebay, or messing up the order of my apps. There isn’t a button on his iPad he can’t touch or explore. His has an indestructible case, and parental internet controls. I’m not frustrated with his apps cluttering up my home screen, and he’s able to pick and choose on his own what he wants to do. His stuff isn’t filling up valuable memory space on mine, allowing both of us to have more space. I’m less possessive and controlling with my own iPad, now that he’s got his. I don’t hesitate to install a new app, or allow him to get a new book. With him having his own iPad, he can take control and ownership over that part of his learning, and he gains confidence from that.
Children and technology is a fairly new topic, therefore the studies on it are young. I’m curious to see how children in this age are affected by it, in both negative and positive ways. For now, I’m happy to let young Rowan use this portable learning tool as a complement to his daily life.