Kids and Electronics: Battling a Plugged-in, Tuned-out Toddler

Kids apps It came like a thief in the night. Something I've been thinking about for months, and hoping we wouldn't have to deal with it so soon. There seems to be a lot at stake, and so many things to be cautious about – boundaries to be set.

But then, the meltdown happened and we caved. We're now fully immersed in the tension between letting our 21-month-old embrace technology or saying “No” 3 billion times a day.

For the past week, after she wakes up in the morning, the first words out of Rooney's mouth have been “Foam?” And, in case you don't speak Rooney, I'll tell you exactly what that means in English: "Where is your phone? Give it to me now; I need to watch the first 10 seconds of everything on the PBS Kids app or I'm going to throw a fit."

Maybe I'm over-reacting, or being a bit nostalgic, but we certainly didn't have these devices when we were kids, and I've always been a bit leery of my child becoming entranced with electronic devices.

My Fears

  • It will be all she ever wants to do
  • She won't just “be a kid” and play
  • She won't use her imagination
  • She will no longer like “playing with daddy”
  • I'll somehow be a weaker parent for not being able to control my toddler

Just a short list of what runs through my head before deciding to give Rooney my phone or iPad. We've always been pretty good (not perfect) about staying off our devices while Rooney is awake. And when we are using our phones, it's typically because we’re trying to snap a quick photo.

But, lately we can hardly get a picture of her, because she is so quick the photo ends up as a mug shot with her hand out toward the lens as she's trying to grab our phone.

If You Can't Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em

We're not about to get extreme and sell all of our electronics to help this situation, so we've kind of decided to make the most of the situation, trying to remember our parenting battle cry: "This is just a phase; it won't last forever."

Before “device apocalypse,” as I'm calling it, I didn't spend much time exploring kids' apps in the App Store. There wasn't really much of a need. But, since “device apocalypse,” I've been trying to find the best apps to help Rooney learn.

Generally, she likes watching videos on the PBS Kids app. But after some teaching moments, and a week of effort, she has mastered a few other matching apps.

And since she does love to draw and color, I found a great/simple drawing app that she really loves as well.

It's still a challenge to pry her away from the iPad or phone to get her to move on to something different, but I imagine that will be a parenting challenge for us for the next decade or so.

As for now, it's awesome to watch her use the iPad to learn, and I've had to come to grips with the fact that it's not all bad. She's learning to use technology, something that will certainly help her as she grows up. It's just a lot different than how we grew up. And I need to remember that.

A few apps Rooney loves:

  • PBS Kids (she loves selecting the shows and bounces back and forth through all of them)
  • Photos (flips through the photo album)
  • Tiny Hands Lotto I (matching game, as seen in the photo above)
  • Tiny Hands Towers I (stacking game)
  • Drawing Carl (drawing/coloring app, as seen in the photos below)
  • Mickey Mouse Clubhouse appisode

Photo Dec 19, 6 57 13 PM

Photo Dec 20, 5 06 49 PM

How do you deal with screen time with your little ones?