This past Christmas, we got an iPad 2. Our son, who wasn’t quite 2-years-old at the time, loved to look at stuff on it. We would show him pictures, videos, and he loved to watch me play Bejeweled Blitz.
Soon, though, we knew we’d have to get it kid-proof, so we bought the heavy duty, military grade iPad case so he could flick away on the thing without us losing our shit that he’d break this expensive toy.
Flash forward a month, and my mom came to visit. She wanted to see the iPad, so I gave it to her. Stereotypically, she couldn’t get it to work. I told my son to show her how to use it.
She was flabbergasted to watch this little dude turn it on, unlock it, and start navigating to his favorite apps (one with Elmo and letters). We thought it was cool how he could intuitively operate it, and soon we were instituting time limits on his play because he got so carried away with it.
Now, every once in a while, he’ll grab a pillow, put it on his lap, and look at us as innocently as possible, saying, “Mommy, daddy, iPad please.” It’s always an issue getting him to stop playing with it once he starts, so we don’t let him play with it too much, but if the dishes are out of control, or we need just a few minutes to take care of bills or something, we’ll let him have a go with it.
But the monkey-screams that bellow out of his little mouth when his time is over makes me a tad uncomfortable.
It’s not necessarily that I worry about it; hell, I get it. When I’m “there” in a game or book or something, the last thing I want to do is stop. And I worry sometimes that his obsession with the thing is bordering on unhealthy.
But he doesn’t look at porn on it, he doesn’t buy a bunch of apps, and he generally has a good time connecting the dots, learning letters with Elmo, or learning the basics of avian-slingshot physics.
There’s something greater at play here, and I’m not smart enough to know what it is. He gets lost in play with cars and trains on a regular basis. And he’s not 3 yet, so that’s natural, right? But why all of the worry about his obsession with a tablet filled with educational games?
Having kids does something to parents’ brains. We become hyper-vigilant about predators, hoping to ensnare our babies. We look at the license plates of shady-looking cars in the neighborhood; we read nutrition labels a little more often; we over-analyze media messages in “kid-safe” programming.
Maybe all of that worry is just transferred from some biologically necessary parent-paranoia. Or maybe I just project my own obsessions onto him, seeing objectively what I would be like if someone made me quit a dungeon-run before saving, or god forbid, close the book before finishing the chapter.
Or maybe the iPad is just crack for kids.