Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Pre-teen technology angst followed by parental angst

I had been thinking that perhaps D could get me an iPad for Mother's Day for the sole purpose of acquiring some of the same educational apps the kids use at school which they would use over the summer.  Our piano teacher told me about a cool app for practicing notes, and there are plenty of reading apps that both G and N could use.

When I mentioned this possibility today to N and G at breakfast, they immediately launched into all the things they were gonna do with MY iPad, and none of them had anything to do with educational apps.  I very quickly shut that conversation down by telling D to forget the iPad idea.  All I would like is a nice straw bristle broom for outside (which is honestly the truth....that would make me plenty happy).

What pissed me off was how the kids usurped my gadget before I ever even owned the gadget.  It seemed even more ungrateful and spoiled than what my kids usually are (and I try really, really hard to keep them from acting in a Veruca Salt-type manner).

Soon after I said, "Forget it.  No iPad," N was in her room crying because lots of her friends have iPod Touches and text each other every night.  Now N doesn't usually ever talk on the phone, and when she does, I often hear her say, "Well, what else do you have to talk about?"  She always finishes her phone call by announcing how long the phone call was, and it usually isn't very long.

I am not actually a Luddite, although compared to other parents I definitely skew in that direction.  I think technology can be wonderful, but I also think too many parents put technology into their children's hands without a firm understanding of its repercussions.

I spoke to N's teacher about this today (the specific episode in my house over the iPad), and she told me how she overhears some of the girls having conversations about their texts which mostly are things like, "Why don't you like me?," "Why did you say that in that way today?" and others of a similar vein.  Aside from all the battles it would cause between me and N, it could potentially cause heartache to her because of all the weird girl drama that can unfold far more easily via electronic media.  She will have enough of that when she is in middle school, and I don't want to prematurely open Pandora's box.

At age 10, I cannot think of any circumstances in which N needs to text.  What do 10-year-olds possibly have to say to each other that needs to be texted?  "I farted. It smells?"

If we did get an iPad, there would be so many rules on when she could use it and how she could use it and for how long she could use it that it might not even be worth having it.  We have a laptop that she uses to watch American Girl youtube videos and she has started making her own American Girl movies herself, and I don't have a problem with this since it is a creative endeavor.  She doesn't need an iPad for this.

Sometimes I try to play the "Well, both of so-and-so's parents work so they can afford pricey gadgets," but it occurred to me today that this is not really true, nor does it paint the proper picture for the kids.  We could afford to get all of them DSs or iPads, but I would rather spend money on a nice family vacation to the beach.  Perhaps other families can afford both, and perhaps we could too with scrimping, but we choose to have experiences over things.

The whole technology-in-kids'-hands is really a small part of a bigger problem I have, which is this general trend of giving kids things or experiences that, at least in my mind, are adult things and experiences.  They are things and experiences that adults work for, pay for, and should enjoy.
Like manicures and pedicures.  I had my first one when I was 29.  I paid for it.  I enjoyed it.  I had my second one when I was 36.  I enjoyed that one too.  But these are not cheap, and I don't think my 10-year-old, who chips her nail polish off her fingers 12 minutes after I put it on is going to value it as an adult would.

Another is sending high school seniors on pricey Spring Break trips.  Do you know where I went for Spring Break as a senior in high school?  Cincinnati, OH.  My friend and I went to the art museum one day and the zoo the next.  We had fun, made for a good memory and it didn't cost a blue million dollars.

If kids get these things as kids, what in the world will they expect to get as adults?  Are we setting their expectations to be ridiculously high?  Will they work as hard for things if so much has just been given to them?

Much of parenting is beyond my control, but I know there are some things I don't want to sow because the reaping will be painful.  Possibly moreso for my children than for me.

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