Graphic from AVG Blogs | J.R. Smith
Like many parents of toddlers I know, I have an iPhone (or Android, or iPad, or whatever) and I’ve downloaded games for my 3-year-old to use, which she does with passion whenever given a chance.
I like to think of the games she plays as educational, and indeed she’s learned to do things like write the alphabet and recognize dozens of national flags with the aid of an iPhone app. But she also desires the same kind of relatively mindless fun I want from a game (case in point: launching Santa into the air with A Christmas Santa).
I didn’t think of it as a big deal, but when she recently started greeting me at the door when I got home from work with "daddy, I want to play with your iPhone", I wondered: am I turning my daughter into an addict?
Plenty of my nephews and nieces I see at family reunions — aged 8 to 18 — are content to keep their faces buried in a Gameboy or cell phone screen whenever possible, and when I secretly hid my 8-year-old nephew’s portable gaming device one evening, he could not sit still until it was located and nearly turned the house upside in a panicked attempt to locate it.
Now comes this study from virus software developer AVG (unfortunately unreachable behind China’s firewall, but you can download the pdf summary here) regarding the learning patterns of 2- to 5-year-olds in several countries, indicating most kids these days are learning technology skills before they are learning life skills.
The bottom line:
While most small children can’t swim, tie their shoelaces, or make breakfast
unaided, they do know how to turn on computers, navigate with a mouse, play
a computer game and increasingly – operate their parents’ smartphones.
The study looked at 2- to 5-year-olds in several western countries and Japan (China was not included). Among the more surprising conclusions were that more kids can operate a computer mouse (69%) than can recognize their own written name (66%).
But is this a reason in itself to panic? Let’s face it — this is the world our kids will have to live in, and certainly almost all skills learned at this age are valuable, so being able to play with a computer at age 2 is not a reason perhaps to warrant a move back to the Little House on the Prairie life.
But let’s combine this "screen time" with television time … and a diet inherited by our more physically active ancestors … and the treadmill of rote learning that many kids are put on at an early age in preparation for the all-important college entrance exam… and it all gets to be a little scary. What will a kid raised in iPhone be like when they reach their teenage years? How much of their life will be virtual?
I think I’ll take my daughter for a bike ride this weekend.