My daughter will turn 3 years old soon and she already has her own personal iPad.
She has been using it for almost 6 months now and before that she learned to use our smartphones. She’s quite adept at managing them. In fact I’ve learnt some key moves from her, myself!
So you might question why? We too asked ourselves the same. Why would we want to give such a small child access to an iPad? What were we trying to prove? Were we showing off? She already watches her favourite cartoon shows on television, isn’t that enough? Children must be taught to play outdoors – it would help her make friends, get fresh air, make her understand the nuances of sharing and playing together. While indoors she can learn to play board games, then why introduce her to a gadget? Won’t her eyes get affected by the glare? She might inadvertently access sites which she shouldn’t. And being young, she won’t know the difference.
For a long time, we resisted. But children learn by watching their parents and she too wanted to emulate our every move.
Between ourselves (a family of 3), we have three iPads. My husband is a tech geek and loves using different gadgets. I’m a full time blogger and always writing. I rarely use my laptop and prefer the iPad as its personal. Simultaneously, we’re both avid readers and Kindle has made life easier. News aggregators are our gateways to the outside world. I’m also addicted to watching TED talks. So, every night we spend ‘quality time together’ but doing our own thing online.
Earlier she would sit on our laps and watch us. So she learnt the concept of a touchscreen. Even our smartphones are touchscreen so she knows well the use of her fingers to swipe across screens. Soon she wanted to play with them on her own and around the same time my husband upgraded his iPad. I got his hand me down and we were wondering what to do with mine. So we agreed that instead of selling it, we should just give it to her!
Yes we were taken aback at the thought. We reasoned and argued. She plays outside every evening with children her age who reside in our building complex. She plays with her pet dog and toys at home. In fact, for her, the iPad is also a toy. So why give it more importance than it deserves? Simultaneously, she’s part of a generation that understands that access to the online world is a necessity. It is no longer a privilege. There is no denying that and no way, we can take that away from her. We justified, that we owed it to her, to help make her a part of that world. And we decided to be with her on that journey.
I actively took interest to fill her iPad with educational applications – mostly to do with alphabets, numbers, colours, shapes, words, animals. Most help to explore analytical and reasoning ability and make connections through game play. Initially I wanted to show her how to play certain games but she wouldn’t let me. Guess she’s too much her father’s daughter, insisting upon learning things on her own through trial and error! It did upset me (after all, I was only trying to help) but then I told myself, introducing her to these games is my contribution, the rest has to be up to her.
I created a separate login in my name so she can access YouTube and subscribed her to different channels like FunToyzCollector, DisneyCarToys, B2CuteCupcakes, Play Doh Collector, Baby Big Mouth, Nursery Rhymes, Mother Goose Club, Kid’s TV, LittleBabyBum etc.I regularly check YouTube recommendations to decide which ones she should be allowed to view. I know she has the power to navigate seamlessly through this mesh but it’s up to me to direct the flow.
One day as we sat together, each with our iPads, it dawned on me that I couldn’t understand a word of what she was intently watching. A quick check later I saw that she was watching Chinnari Chitti Chaduvulu on Tooniarks, a Telegu story channel! I immediately asked her to stop since this wasn’t English or Bengali (the two languages she can converse in). Nor was it in Hindi, a language in which she knows a few words. She was very upset at the interruption so I decided to watch with her. I couldn’t understand but the look on her face indicated that somehow she did. I’d read somewhere that kids before the ages of 5 can learn up to 4 or 5 languages! So why was I trying to stop her? Soon she was watching Kapuki Kanuki, a Russian channel and Kan and Aki’s channel, a Japanese channel! I had a tough time accepting this till I realised that I was thinking about it like an adult. But being a child, she was just being curious.
During the first few months at Pre-school, her teacher often told us that although learning the mother tongue was important, we had to speak to her in English at home. Since she only knew Bengali she wouldn’t say much in school. They found it hard to evaluate her comprehension skills. I must say that watching English episodes of Chota Bheem, rhymes and videos on YouTube helped her greatly to communicate in the language. I too began to speak to her in English and often would translate what I’ve said in Bengali, just to strengthen the connection. It has worked.
She’s in nursery now and her new school has a downloadable app through which they communicate with us, parents. This is a reality so perhaps all I’m trying to do is make her future more accessible to her.
As of now I do not regret allowing her to have her own iPad. I don’t know what the future holds. All I can say is that I will help her explore things at her pace yet continuously guiding her on this journey to the best of my ability.
(Today, access to technology is a necessity! was first published in World of Moms on June 22, 2015)