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.

New App: Stay Away From Mommy’s Phone

children and smartphones

Are you in a tug-of-war with your kids over your smartphone? © yasin öztürk/stock.xchng

“Mommy, I want to type on your phone now… Ma, just let me check the scores on your phone… We want to play Etch-a-Sketch, can we have your phone? Pleeeease.”

I’m thinking about making my own app that drains the battery every time a pair of little hands touch it. Just to avoid the inevitable.

Text me if you want a free download.

Because as much as I love that my children are tech-savvy, including the three-year-old, I don’t want them being savvy on my tech. I only got my first smartphone less than a year ago, and those things are expensive. I have already been *thisclose* to having it dunked in apple juice and dropped out the car window. Why increase the odds?

Not to mention that I generally like to see my childrens’ faces when I’m with them. The tops of their heads are cute too, but it makes me crazy to see so many kids walking around or sitting at a family dinner with their chins down and eyes glued to a screen.

So when I tell them that Mommy’s phone is running awfully low on battery and needs to be recharged, we resort to making a game out of the sugar packets on the table. They can still get a good 15 minutes out of scrap paper and a pen. And when all else fails, we always have twenty questions.

BOR-ING. I know, but at least there’s still hope that if a child of mine is dropped out in the wild someday — and the smartphone has lost its signal — he/she can make it out with a piece of sugarcane turned into a compass.

Besides, there are other (good) reasons why my children are not often permitted to play with my phone — or my husband’s for that matter.

For one, there’s the business we conduct on our phones. You know — the daily activities that we get paid to do that actually let us cover the cell phone bill at the end of the month. Yeah, that thing called work. And the people we work with, who probably aren’t amused past the second random text from a goofy child.

Like the ”my dad is stinky” text that wasn’t quite meant for the ops director. Or the heavy breathing from a three-year-old who accidentally dialed the CEO. My husband has preemptively deleted all important numbers from his phone to avoid the chance of this happening, except now he doesn’t know who’s calling him.

I guess that’s better than discovering a misdirected photo message, like a staff member did when her nine-year-old son sent me a picture of her laying on the couch which was meant for his sister whose name precedes mine in his mom’s phone directory.

Oh well, kids will be kids. Except mine shall remain phoneless and app-less. At least for as long as I can help it.

When Amanda showed my kids the app for Talking Carl on her iPhone, it was a good thing we couldn’t “find” it in the Droid Market. But I wouldn’t be surprised if her talented toddler comes up with a workaround for that the next time the kids are together.