One more thing
My baby son loves technology, and by love I mean he loves to chew it, bash it and break it. My Apple TV remote looks like a prop from Jaws, (the box has been forced to go into hiding). And after repeated attacks, my daughter’s iPad mini is no more. He got the screen last week, and this week he managed to get the rest of it. It’s beyond economic repair and its recycling value is zero.
That’s awful, of course. It’s a bill I could do without, and it won’t be the last: studies suggest a typical tot does £2K of damage to your worldly goods, a figure I’m beginning to think is an underestimate. In terms of dishing out punishment, as parents, the warning of iPad withdrawal is pretty much the only threat we’ve got left.
The thing is, though, that while we wait for the new iPad to arrive – it wasn’t next-day delivery – my daughter and I have been having a brilliant time. We’ve been doing chemistry experiments and cooking lessons. We’ve been shopping for presents and reading books and telling stories and swapping fascinating facts.
She hasn’t been totally tech-free – the MacBook has thus far evaded my son’s bite radar – but she’s been iPad-free, and I’ve really noticed a big difference in both of us. We’re not communicating in shrugs and grunts and “If I have to tell you one more time, I’m going to turn off the Wi-Fi…”. We’re talking, doing stuff. We’re present mentally as well as physically.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to argue that iPads are bad for kids. But I am going to ask whether these marvellous devices have downsides. If we left them on Airplane Mode more, would our adult behaviour improve?
I suspect they would. For example, the moment I turn off my iPhone alarm I’m in online banking, effectively guaranteeing a foul mood before I’ve even had coffee. I’m constantly in apps instead of doing something genuinely creative or just messing around with the kids. I’m busy, yes, but I’m busy doing nothing.
I’m not suggesting that we should channel Ned Ludd and start smashing up our smartphones, or that we should let our tablets fall into the angry hands of toddlers. But maybe we need to pause and ask ourselves a really simple question from time to time. And that question is this: what would, could or should I be doing if I didn’t have this wonderful gadget in my hands?
If we left these marvellous devices on Airplane Mode, would our adult behaviour improve?