So Young And So Gadgeted — What’s the Right Approach?

15 06 2008

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?



7 responses

15 06 2008

We have three working computers in the house, all with wi-fi. We have four people in the house. For some reason, at least once per day, three computers = not enough. My oldest child is not yet ten.

If I could buy each of my kids his/her own laptop, we’d be all set. But we can’t afford it, so we “make due” with what we have. (I say that with the full realization that we are not deprived in any way, shape, or form. I realize that many American children are hungry and/or homeless, while all of our needs and many of our wants are taken care of.)

In the past 3 months, we’ve gone from a house with no video game consoles (except the computers, and that was our rationale – you can play games on the computer and it does so much MORE than that), and now we have a Wii and two Nintendo DSs.

I have mixed feelings about the technology, not because of anything related to the kids’ development, but because, truly, of the cost. I hate how much they cost when they’re new and then become worthless within a couple of years. I’m one of those people who likes to buy something and use it for a long, long time. But the game consoles and computers will be “old” too soon for me. It’s painful to watch them depreciate so quickly, and to that extent I feel that they’re very wasteful.

15 06 2008

We have 5 computers in the house on the wifi connection. Everybody has their own computer and I have two laptops (one personal, one work). Also, the Xbox 360 is online via the wifi for online gaming. Everybody also has their Ipod / MP3 player. Of our personal PC’s, the newest is my laptop at 3 years. My wife is using a 7 year old computer but it is fine for her needs around email / web. My son has my old desktop, which I rebuilt into a gaming machine. It’s probably pushing EOL as his games are really pushing its limits. My daughters PC is 5 years old. When my wife’s computer dies she is getting Linux. She does not do anything that requires Windows. The kids unfortunately have to have Windows for their games.

Cutting edge games are the only things that will tax a home PC. If you don’t play the latest and greatest games you don’t need to replace your computer every few years.

16 06 2008

Jerry has a laptop. My grandmother bought it for him when we started homeschooling for doing his school stuff. She doesn’t know how short lived our attempt at “school at home” was and I don’t ever plan on telling her! Now he uses it mostly for games and going online. I’m really glad he has it though because I wouldn’t like to share mine all the time! He’s been lobbying for a cell phone for a year now. I keep telling him he’ll get one when he needs it. He really doesn’t need one yet. His 13th birthday is coming up though and I expect we’ll probably ending up buying one for him. My husband thinks Jerry’s still too young for one but I think he’s nearing the age when a cell phone in his pocket would make things easier for both of us (Jerry and I, that is).

16 06 2008

So Jerry and Young Son are the same age right now, but one is eagerly lobbying for the cell phone and one just shrugs at the offer. Maybe boys and cell phones are like girls and ear piercing or make-up? — chronological age doesn’t necessarily predict the arrival or intensity of interest in that next step.

Driving a car comes to mind too, wonder if we should count that as modern technology? I read recently that scooter sales are up as parent-chauffeured SUV sales drop, and I was thinking that maybe European kids have a different “maturity” curve because it’s expected that they will be getting around the city on their own one way or another, and maybe our society will be facing pressure to change in that way now? —

16 06 2008

To Lori about the money — this today from another angle, might interest you:

Among the parents’ considerations are whether to give now or later; how to provide for the companies or foundations they started; whom they want to manage their children’s trusts; and how to protect themselves from catastrophic health care costs. . . above all, the question: What sort of lives do they want their children to lead?

Patricia Angus, principal of wealth advisory services at Shelterwood Financial Services in New York, said that many of her clients were changing how they define wealth.

“The definition is broadening to include not just financial capital but human, social and intellectual capital,” Ms. Angus said. “Professionals used to think it was just, How do I transfer my financial assets at the lowest tax costs? Now people are asking, What is the purpose and meaning of what I’m doing here, and how do I pass those down?

12 02 2009
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24 10 2011
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[…] So Young and So Gadgeted, What’s the Right Approach?” […]

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