“My son now has his first device… and the results are unexpected”
One of the perks of being a newish parent AND hosting a morning television show every weekday is all the free advice I get. Well, we all get it from such shows. There is no end to the amount of experts who have sat next to me and Sonia to discuss parenting.
We have talked about being pregnant, non-sleeping newborns, toddlers and tweens, angsty teens, kids who don’t want to leave home and how to leave a decent will for your greedy offspring who are eyeing off whatever superannuation you have left.
All this started for me when Leo was about 18 months old, and continues with the twins now.
One particularly stark bit of information was about young people and technology, the big baddie that we in the media talk about a lot. To be fair, there is a bunch of scary stuff on the internet for parents to navigate with their kids. None of us want to talk about most of it. You know… begins with a “p” and sounds like corn.
The big question we are willing to ask, however, is “When should my child get their own device?” When asked, Steve Jobs said he wouldn’t let his kids have an ipad until much later – as their brains weren’t ready. Bill Gates didn’t let his children have mobile phones until they were 14. So of course, for Leo’s eighth birthday, I agreed to let my dad buy him an ipod. He loves his music (Leo, as well as my father) and I thought we could still get pods that are not connected to the interporn. God, I just said the bad word. My father, who is cooler than I am, had to inform me that they no longer sell the click-wheel ipod I was hoping for. (By the way, Apple? Bring this back! It’s retro and supercool.) So now Leo was going to be hooked into the mainframe, like a hacker. I imagined losing him to an embassy, with only the stars of Baywatch allowed visitation rights. That’s when my morning television brain kicked in, and I turned off nearly everything. I restricted all internet except itunes. No social media accounts and no friends made online. He could only text close family and friends. That was when something quite unexpected as well as wonderful happened. Leo started to text me. He’d message me to say goodnight if I was out at the theatre. He would text funny emojis. He sent me GIFS, like dancing pictures of LOL cats or Minions or Avengers. He would take a photo of his beloved Swannies’ match and tell me what Buddy Franklin just did.
I was seeing another side of him. We were communicating through this new medium, and it was showing me his sense of humour, and what was going through his mind. (Usually something about Steve Irwin or the fact he had written a letter to the PM about getting funding for his kids’ spy network.)
So, maybe Jobs and Gates were right. Maybe not. I think there is a middle ground to be found, one that exists between our kids being sucked into computers like Tron and us acting like we still only use landlines.
And again, I also really think Apple needs to bring back those click-wheel ipods. How good were they?