We Are Both Right

Giving My Toddler My SmartPhone Makes Me Phone Not Smart. And Yet I Do It Anyway.


Maybe a piano app will settle my toddler down? Sigh. ©Aardvark

I am a hypocrite.

Quite a bit of the professional writing that I do is for various parenting websites. One site in particular is aimed at the parents of preschoolers. I write articles and blog posts and do my best to offer well-thought out advice based on my experience as a parent as well as research from experts in the field.

On more than one occasion I have (very high and mightily, I might add) questioned the wisdom of parents who had over their (very expensive and very fragile) smartphone to their young children in the hopes that it will either:

  • teach them something important

or, (and the more likely scenario)

  • get them to stop crying or screeching or generally making a scene where the parent would prefer they didn’t

There I would sit from my know-it-all parenting perch behind my laptop, throwing around nuggets of wisdom like, “Is a smartphone for children really such a good idea?” and “Instead of handing your smartphone over to your child if they are acting unruly, try other ways to keep them entertained like playing counting games.”

And then I got an iPhone last year for Mother’s Day (thanks T.!) and my toddler S. started causing a commotion in a store and Elmo singing was the only thing that would make him stop.

OK, maybe an smartphone for children is not such a bad thing.

I must confess, on more than one occasion now, when I am truly desperate, I have handed mine over to S. or to C. or A. so they can entertain S. with it. The good news is, it works like a charm. Every single time.

I think what both makes me proud and scares me (aside from him breaking it) is that while I won’t go as far to say that S. knows my iPhone better than I do (although C. and A. certainly do), he has a pretty good idea of how it works. He knows how to push the bottom button to make the picture of himself, A. and C. show up on the wallpaper. He know how to get the music to play even if the phone is locked (which I don’t know how to do). He knows to put it to his ear and say “hi.”

My point is, he is comfortable with it. Confident. Asking for his own for Christmas.

I actually don’t have many apps specifically for him, although I know there are a ton out there for toddlers. I guess I feel like if I buy them I will be admitting defeat officially. (Even though I lost a long time ago.)

I have “Baby Flash Cards” which is just a series of pictures and words as well as an electronic book featuring Elmo. S. also really enjoys an app called “Talking Carl” which is basically this red blob with eyes, arms and a big mouth who repeats everything you say in a funny voice. I also have two Elmo songs loaded on there — I think those are his favorites. As soon as Elmo’s picture shows up he starts to dance and his face breaks out into this big grin.

Which is good that someone is grinning. Because I’m more grimacing.

What are your thoughts on an iPhone for children? Have you/would you ever hand one over to a toddler?

Suzanne never has to worry about her phone breaking as hers is off-limits to her little ones.

5 Responses to “Giving My Toddler My SmartPhone Makes Me Phone Not Smart. And Yet I Do It Anyway.”

  1. I’m with you – while it pains me to cave into the easy convenience of giving the iPhone to my 4 YO or even my 1 YO, I do it if need be to buy good behavior in public.

    Another tip – the iPad can be a great ice breaker for a new sitter with the kids. Kids warm up more easily to someone new when they are showing off something like their favorite app. We just posted a blog on this yesterday!

    • suzanne says:

      Hi Amanda, thanks for stopping by to comment. We’ll have to check your post out – good idea.

  2. I’m, of course, all for it. I’m a techno-geek, and my daughter is following suit. At 2.5, she is very good with the iPhone. She knows how to unlock it (bonus: re-enforcing her numbers by making her type in the unlock code herself) and get to the page that has all her apps. She knows the phone is not to be tortured. In fact, I’ve dropped it more times than she has. Heck, my daughter mastered seven levels of Angry Birds all by herself.

    Thanks to blogging, she’s also my guinea pig now. If someone sends me an app to test, I encourage her to play with it. Of course, though, she has a mind of her own, and if she’s not in the mood to play with a certain app, she won’t.

  3. Enyo says:

    I don’t have an iPhone (I have a BlackBerry), but I do have an iPod touch and the husband has an iPod touch and an iPad. Norton has apps that he loves on the iPad and gets to play with them. I’ve considered buying him his own iPad (or at least is own iPod touch) for Christmas.

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