Toddler talk Society

All-in-one entertainment

If there’s a toddler in your household, chances are that one of your most cherished belongings is an iPad or a tablet. It certainly is in our household. We don’t leave home without it. It comes with us to restaurants, to doctor’s clinics, on long drives and plane journeys. If we’re leaving on a day long outing and the tablet’s not charged, we panic. After all, that rectangular piece of touchscreen wizardry is an all-in-one entertainment system for kids, loaded with favourite videos, drawing and colouring apps, and learning games. It can mean an uninterrupted 10 minutes for you to zip through the entrée at the bistro, averted meltdowns on a deserted highway halfway through a road trip, and fewer accusing glares from the people sitting near you on the airplane.

In other words, it’s God’s gift to parents of toddlers. Like an emergency room doctor, it’s always on call, even when at home. Sometimes parking your kid in front of it is the only way to finish a phone call or a chore with your sanity still intact. If your toddler, like mine, won’t let a morsel of food pass between her lips without her favourite cartoon playing, then the tablet can also mean the prevention of an all-day toddler hunger strike.

It’s not just the goodies that are packed into this gizmo. No, it’s the sheer joy derived from jabbing the touchscreen and of course, that satisfying swiping motion that gets this generation’s tots so hooked on iPads. Most are experts at using touchscreens before they can even say amma. My daughter discovered it approximately at the age of one, when her grandmother made the mistake of showing her pictures of babies on Google images. A few experimental swipes of the screen and the kid was addicted to scrolling through the pictures. She’d demand “Babies!” as soon as she entered paati’s house, and run through the images like a junkie, not even pausing to look at the pictures in pursuit of the pleasure of going swipe-swipe-swipe. Of course, when the time came to take it away, there would be heart-breaking sobs and screaming. It got so bad that the iPad had to hidden before she arrived every day, and paati would have to smuggle it into her bedroom and furtively check her email behind closed doors to prevent her darling pethi from grabbing it and crowing “Babies!”

Recently, however, the bad news arrived. iPads and tablets and other miscellaneous handheld devices, the experts said, are bad and they’re the incarnation of evil. The horror stories flowed. The child in kindergarten who needed therapy to hold his pencil because he only coloured on the iPad and never learnt to use a crayon. The child had poor muscle development due to too much time spent on the tablet and not enough spent running around. The radiation emitted is unhealthy, they said, and strain on the eyes, considerable.

Yuppie parents worldwide swooned. After all, we already spent too much time on tablets and iPads, driving ourselves and our doctors insane by reading any and all available websites about our children’s development and health, and lying awake at night worrying about obscure symptoms. Now we had one more thing to be terrified about.

Soon, mommy bloggers and others began to retaliate, accusing the ‘experts’ of fear-mongering and overstating the dangers of what’s still a new technology. The online war had begun! Bring on the flaming and mud-slinging. Still, in apartments and cars everywhere, moms and dads began to curtail iPad and tablet use for their toddlers, wistfully thinking back to those halcyon days when they whipped the iPad out at the drop of a crayon, and gazed at each other, gushing, “What did parents do before tablets?”

It’s probably for the best, of course – too much of a good thing, and all that. I now administer the tablet like an SOS drug, to be used only when necessary and hidden at all other times. paatiAnd I don’t doubt that iPads and tablets the world over are heaving a sigh of relief. Because, being loved by a two-year-old isn’t easy. These tablets have been dropped and pummelled; they’ve been recipients of juice and food, vomit and snot, and on occasion, jumped or danced upon. If there was a John Rambo award for electronics, these long-suffering gadgets would have won hands down.

Now, perhaps, they can rest a little easier. Until the next toddler emergency. Then they must rise again (cue the Rocky theme song).

What experts say

- Try to limit usage of tablets to about 15 minutes at a time. Using timers can help.

- Make sure tablet use isn’t replacing other regular activities, such as drawing on paper or playing with building blocks

- Educational apps can be great tools for learning, when used in moderation

- Avoid long stretches of unsupervised use

- Limit usage at night time as the backlit screens can cause sleep disruptions

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Printable version | Oct 25, 2021 7:53:30 AM |

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