Question: Do your kids play with your smartphone or iPad?
Mine do. I'll even admit that I'll hand my youngest son my iPad so I can make a phone call or check my email. Is that so bad?
According to a Nielsen survey of adults with children under 12 in tablet-owning households, I'm not alone. It says that families are using the tablets as a playmate, teacher and babysitter. 77% use them to download games, 57% use for educational purposes, 55% use while traveling and 41% use at restaurants.
Disturbing? Considering that these same results showed that only 15% used to communicate with friends and family – it made me think about the social pitfalls these tablets can create.
I recently went to a restaurant and saw a family having dinner. They had 3 kids and 3 iPads. Each kid was watching a movie and deep within his own little world. And their parents were having a nice conversation. Parents of preschoolers – this sounds tempting, right? But the kids weren't talking to each other. The family wasn't laughing, learning and enjoying each other. That's what family dinners are about, right?
Then my friend tells me that her 10-year old son recently had a play date where the two boys played online video games – against other people online. She said they barely even spoke to each other the whole time. It was an epiphany. She realized video games had become a problem in her house. Her son would rather play with virtual friends than his family and schoolmates. She has since banned all video games and iPad use and is slowly working on redeveloping his interest in being social. But it's a daily challenge.
With constantly evolving technology, and the temptation to occupy kids, it's important for all families – and caregivers – to create rules around gaming. Just as we did for TV. But it's equally as important for us to set good examples – and put down our phones and handheld technology ourselves. Let's set our own rules and use short car trips, family dinners, and week night down time to interact – with real people.
Tell me: What are your rules for technology? Do you see it getting out of hand in your family? How does your babysitter support these goals? I'd love to hear from you.