EVERYONE knows that babies crawl before they walk, and that tricycles come before two-wheelers. But at what age should children get their first cellphone, laptop or virtual persona?
These are new questions being faced by 21st-century parents, and there is no wisdom from the generations for guidance.
. . .What’s the right approach? Studies of child development offer some middle ground. Long before the invention of the first microprocessor, the Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget identified four stages of cognitive development by watching his own children.
His theories bring some logic to the debate about how to support your child’s growth with the latest technology.
I like the way this story is broken down to match various technologies with specific ages and social stages, some reasonable ideas as a starting point for your own family at least. Then the last line is:
If he were alive today, Piaget would probably advise parents that for a young child, everything — whether it has batteries or not — is a discovery waiting to happen. But toys work best when they are matched to a child’s level of development.
Favorite Daughter never played video games but got her first cell phone at 13, I think, just to call us when rehearsal was through so we could come pick her up etc. It was a prepaid dollar-per-minute Virgin Mobile clunker apart from our family cell phone service. I was afraid it would be lost or stolen, so hoped to limit our exposure to the $25 at a time we’d load on it. At a dollar per minute, it was definitely used differently than the tricked-out phone and all-feature service she uses so much now, at 18. Which is a mere accessory to her constant companion, la laptop. And she is VERY put out about all this which I guess reflects her fourth-stage cognitive understanding of adult politics and economics? 😉
Now that Young Son is the age she was then, he doesn’t seem ready even for that kind of phone (I asked, he shrugged) although he and his dad custom-built him his own computer on which he plays RTS war games that I can’t even decipher when he shows me exactly what’s on the screen and why. (At least I still know more about cell phones than he does!) And he already has his own iPod and downloads-updates his own playlists. I can’t do that; the kids have to patiently do it for me when I ask.
What about your family, as you face constant changing both in technology and your kids?