Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Electronics and Kids: Are we introducing too much too soon?

(Disclaimer: I realize that this post may offend some, but believe me when I tell you that is not my intention; this is just my opinion.)

When I was a kid, we didn't have computers or cell phones or iPads.  We had video games, but I wasn't allowed to play them.  When I was a kid we played with toys, real toys, not electronics.  I realize that times are changing, but I think that we, as a nation, are trying to make our kids more like little adults rather than letting them be kids. 

I was in Wal-Mart the other day buying a Barbie for my daughter's birthday; she was turning six years old.  As I was standing there trying to remember which Barbies my two oldest daughters (the oldest one is 8) had already, a woman came strolling down the aisle and made the comment, "I wish I could still buy these things (meaning Barbies, dolls, basically toys) for my daughters.  They want an iPhone and an iPad for Christmas."  I gave her a very understanding smile because I assumed that her kids must be tweens or teenagers or older, and replied "I'll be sad when my kids get too old for these things.  How old are your kids?"  Her reply is what floored me: "They are 8 and 6."  I was speechless because those are the same age as my kids and I couldn't imagine buying them a bunch of electronics for Christmas.  When did kids stop being kids?  Mine are still kids, surely they cannot be the only ones left.

As I left Wal-Mart that day, I did a lot of thinking and a lot of questioning.  Not questioning myself, but questioning others as to what they were giving their kids or what their kids were wanting for Christmas.  The answers that I received were mixed.  Some kids were getting toys (I mean this as "non-electronics and technology"), but a lot were getting the afore mentioned iPhones and iPads.  Now, I do want to go on record as saying that both of my children have netbooks (little laptops) that they play their little girl games on (like Barbie.com and AmericalGirl.com and some educational games; I am not completely in the last century).  However, that being said, I do not think that my 3rd grader or kindergartener needs to have a cell phone to call me on when they are "out playing in the neighborhood."  First of all, my kids are not allowed to roam the neighborhood freely by themselves, have you watched the news?  Second of all, if my kids are at a friends house and they need to call me, they can pick up the phone at the house they are at and call me.  Third, why do my kids even need an iPad? 

To me it seems as if we are exposing our kids to too much of the world too soon because "it's cool."  Let the kids play and use their imagination instead of being glued to a screen; won't that happen soon enough when they grow up and have to go to work?  Take kids to appropriately rated movies and don't let them watch TV that is too old for them.  Shelter them for a little while because there will come a time when you won't be able to anymore.