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My baby has a smart phone

September 21, 2013
Logo design by Christine Hepner

We didn’t buy him one, and yet, my husband and I have had to admit that our two-year-old son does indeed have an iPhone®. It is nominally my iPhone, and so far I’m the only one who uses it to make calls or send texts, but it’s at best a shared resource.

If you look at the apps, most of them are the little guy’s. I mean, of course I use Flashlight and GPS, and the menstrual cycle tracker? All mine. But as my darling 12-year-old niece Emily discovered, much to her chagrin, there is even a potty-training app on my iPhone complete with potty songs and potty milestone charts. It was too much information for her.

No matter how you feel about babies and technology, you have to give Apple its due. Just how deliciously and deviously beautiful is an operating system so intuitively designed that a toddler can use it with no instruction? I’m a “computer professional” of a sort (a technical writer, which is the lowest rung on both the technology and writing ladders, but still….) and I needed a free 30-minute training session from Staples when I bought my new Windows 8 laptop. My toddler just this morning picked up my iPhone and started 4 new games of Words With Friends! (He doesn’t win, yet…)

But the iPhone/iPad OS is so baby-friendly, he walks up to the TV and swipes the screen if he doesn’t like what’s on! (And yes, we do let him watch PBS Kids shows.)

Do I think it’s OK that my toddler has an iPhone? It depends when you ask me. Hanging out on the beach on a beautiful, sunny day and he chooses the iPhone over going in the ocean or playing in the sand with a shovel? Nope, I don’t think it’s OK.

But ask me when he’s screaming his poor little head off in his car seat where he has been sitting so patiently for hours, strapped in like Hannibal Lecter, and all he wants to calm himself down and pass the time is the iPhone. Do I think it’s OK then? You bet your sweet ass I do.

It started innocently enough with my iPad on some long car drive (he might have been as young as three months). I had tried everything to calm him down. I sat next to him in the backseat and sang to him, fed him, and just generally tried to comfort him with his favorite toys. Nothing was working. Then, I found the Elmo ABC app and downloaded it. It has 4 little music videos, and one of them mesmerized him. He stopped crying and watched the video over and over. Two years later, he still loves this app. It’s the best .99 cents I’ve ever spent!

Do I think it’s harmful to let him play with iPhone apps? I don’t know. Do I want him making calls from preschool. I don’t know. I guess not. Do I want him to have -a secret iPhone stashed somewhere in his backpack if some freak grabs him? Yes, sirree.

I guess every generation of parents has struggled with new technology. Here’s a timeline :

The 2000s: The Internet with its chat, video  chat, chat rooms, pedophiles, stalkers, sexting….all of it terrifying.

1990s: Video games—“He’s been playing that game all weekend! One day, they are going to find his dead body in our basement!”

1980s: MTV and the Sony Walkman! Finally teenagers could drown their parents out on long, torturous family vacations!

1970s: The plain-old phone. It seems so innocent now, but it drove my mother crazy if I was on the phone at night. “Didn’t you just see her at school? Why do you have to call her?”

1950s: “She’s been watching that darn TV all day….One day, they are going to find her….”

1930s: Radio

1920s: Cars

50,000 BCs: Cave wall paintings

I mean, can’t you just imagine two Neanderthal parents worrying about their kids. I don’t know if they had language yet, but maybe if they did, it went something like, “He’s painting on that damn cave wall again! He doesn’t want to do anything else anymore. He doesn’t hunt! He doesn’t gather! If we don’t do something, one day they’re going to find his fossilized skull in this cave!”

Although maybe those Neanderthal parents had a point. You don’t see many of them about these days. Unless of course, if you look to the right of the aisle in Congress. But that’s a post for another time.

© copyright 2013

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