By Natalie Moutafis
Because my toddler already knows how to operate my iPhone (don’t judge) I have been thinking more about setting limits to his exposure to technology and screens.
Before he was born, I always thought it would be easy to restrict his exposure to screens, especially in the early years. Now that I’m deep in the trenches of toddlerhood, I have realised that there is a whole generation(s) of children growing up in a vastly different time to when we did, and things are simply, different.
It’s not like we actively sat down and taught him how to use the iPhone or that the television can be pretty entertaining. Part of his understanding on how to use an iPhone has come from regularly having video calls with interstate grandparents and extended family, and also from taking copious amounts of photos and videos of him with our phones since day one. They have quite literally been in his face since he was born.
When you think about how we were raised (I’m talking to you, fellow Gen X-ers and Gen Ys), most of our parents didn’t have this option. Photos were treasured (plus expensive due to the cost of film and developing!) and usually taken on special occasions and holidays.
My son knows that he can swipe and scroll – but then, that’s part of the charm of technology these days – it’s intuitive. Even when we go to the local library, he’s fascinated by the borrowing kiosks that are touchscreens. The educators at his childcare centre utilise screens to show nursery rhymes to the children and as a tool for teaching (for example, showing clips of animals), so he is exposed to both screens and technology in so many areas of everyday life.
I don’t want to – and let’s be honest, I can’t – prevent him from seeing or using these things, as I know that they are just part of his day, and will continue to evolve and change as he grows.
I’m also inclined to think that there is some level of educational benefit in him being exposed to devices early on. He is exposed to more words (talking to more people, hearing more songs/stories), and he’s developing his hand-eye coordination with the swipe/scroll actions.
But I also want him to have a childhood where he is outdoors making mud pies, or happily entertaining himself through imaginative play or reading a book of his own accord. So I guess it’s not so much about setting limits but rather trying to ensure that when he is watching television or using an app, that its age and developmentally appropriate and making sure we talk about what he’s seeing and engage with him so it’s not a one-sided passive experience.
Ultimately, as his parents, it’s up to us to make sure he has the right balance of exposure to all forms of activities and learning opportunities. Like any other phase of parenting, there is no universal right or wrong answer, but with a bit of trial and error, we should be able to find a happy balance that allows him to explore both the real world and the tech world.
Natalie Moutafis is Executive Projects Manager at ISV, mother of an almost two-year-old, and our My Tiny Human parenting blogger.
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