Let Kids Be Luddites

Mashing up two of my recent musings, about not wanting to be technology tethered at all times and about wanting my kids to have space to just be kids, I present to you today’s musing, which is on the benefit of not letting kids get too gadget-crazy at a young age.

I must confess that I had a moment of panic, when my friend was moaning to me about how his five-year-old daughter was constantly stealing off with his iPhone so she could watch movies on the little screen in the comfort of her bed, about how technologically challenged my kids are. It’s only been recently, as a result of school, that Jada knows how to use a mouse, and only in very simplified kid-friendly interfaces at that; she wouldn’t be able to navigate a web browser or get herself to and around Nickelodeon or PBS Kids by herself. And Aaron, at age 3, hasn’t even touched a computer: his sole interaction with technology has been staring at the monitor while Amy tends to crops on Farmville on Facebook. Neither of my kids has ever used a laptop, PDA, or mp3 player, and they’re still not quite sure how cell phones work, as they don’t have conversations with their relatives with it as much as they point and giggle that an otherwise familiar voice is coming out of a little piece of metal.

But my moment of panic has long since passed, and I accept and even embrace my kids’ lack of technology in their lives. Perhaps I am dooming my kids to a childhood of quizzical looks and ostracization, given how engrained technology has become in the lives of our young people today, in terms of entertainment and communication and information. But maybe there is a counterargument: a friend of mine recently sent me to an online article about the importance of physical play in early childhood development. There will be time later for learning about computers and the Internet and information technologies, once they are actually useful in education and for future vocational training; for now, I want my kids to play with real dolls and real trucks and real trees and real soccer balls.

Of course, soon enough, Jada will discover that there is a new Dora doll that you can plug into your computer and virtually manipulate, and she will want it, and I will have to disappoint her. Play with your real dolls for now, my child; you can worry about technology stuff later.

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