I saw a woman in the cafe of a swimming pool hand her baby an iPad to play with. It was to distract the baby so she could chat with a friend. I wanted one of two things to happen:
1. The baby would do what all babies do: vomit - right onto the iPad
2. The baby would do the other thing that babies do when they're given something: throw it on the floor.
I did also hope that her mother might just have a book. You know, one of those nice ones for babies designed to stimulate and delight them (and withstand dribble, vomit and throwing). But no, she didn't have one of those. Just a piece of tech that cost hundreds of pounds that no doubt she'd have a paddy about if it got dropped on the floor.
Maybe I'm just a massively judgemental cow, but I don't care. I have been validated by a Steve Jobs comment - yes, really!
I read today that Steve Jobs was a low-tech parent. Despite leading a company whose products are the tech equivalent of crack for some people, causing them to rob their mums and queue in the rain for hours just to hold a piece of white plastic that they would then download Minecraft and Bruno Mars albums onto, he explained to the journalist Nick Bilton back in 2010 that he would "limit how much technology our kids use at home.”
Isn't it highly hypocritical of me to make a living from the technology industry and not encourage my children to use it? Am I harming the likelihood of my daughter pursuing a career in technology because I don't let her spend time playing on my tablet pc? No, I don't think so. My children are still at primary school - there's no reason for them to spend hours with a screen in their faces or hands. I have come to this conclusion through my own technology usage which is thus:
They can wait until ooh, they're at least fourteen before we tell them they need to earn their keep.
I am guilty as hell of this. It is the adult equivalent of picking your nose. I'm trying to do less of it.
Chatting with friends
Let's face it, nobody has a land line any more so keeping up with the friends we've made over the years would be almost impossible without email and Facebook. And even if we did have land lines, picking up the phone to a friend will cause your children to shriek in your ears / strip off / start tearing the house apart in order to end your conversation - it's just not possible. The children's friends are at school. Where they go every day. For six whole hours.
Who am I kidding? See: Distraction.
I've downloaded some apps to help me with my fitness goals because I'm lazy and need a kick up the arse to stop me from getting a massive arse. Children are naturally geared to behave like chimpanzees jacked up on a hundred bananas - if we spent more time playing with them or like them, we'd be a hell of a lot fitter.
Of course there are times when technology makes it possible to cross oceans and keeps families together who are miles apart, but my issue is with putting devices into the hands of very young children as a means of occupying them. What I know from my own experience is you're a click away from content that is unsettling at best, terrifying at worst, even with parental controls. That when you download a game intended for children, it might show you an advert offering 'explicit pics of people you know' (thanks Talking Tom app). I know owning a smartphone can make you behave furtively - even blatantly rudely as you check it whilst sat with another person. It can also make you very angry, I have thrown at least one mobile phone in my time and the language I have used when my 'smart' phone has crashed is pretty choice.
Naturally there are times when the children think it's unfair or have a nuclear-strength tantrum because we've turned off the tv but it doesn't take long until they find something else to interest them. Either that or we have tear ourselves away from our own devices to properly pay attention to them which is no bad thing.
This was further underlined this week when my five-year-old son was "bored" because I'd turned the television off so I encouraged him to write out some party invitations. Seeing him holding a pen, concentrating on carefully writing his friends names out was a very emotional moment for me. No tech, no screen, just a pen, some card and watching him develop a true skill that will last him the whole of his life. It's low tech, but I love it.