I bought Miss 7 an iPod Touch for Christmas. (For regular readers of my blog – yes, this was a recent addition to my ‘list’. It now includes “Get an iPod” next to the age “When you can read”. Yes, I am aware that this is out-and-out bribery. Hey, it works!)
So anyway, she loves it, and in her limited time in between sleeping, eating, school and the long drive there and back, she gets time to play on it. That is, when she’s not doing homework, playing on the computer or on the PS2.
Yes, I’m a bad mum. Maybe. You see, even though many parents, and even many, many more educators, would say that all that time in front of a screen is ‘bad’, I wonder if it is. Really.
What are the main arguments against kids in front of the screen? 1. Lack of physical activity. 2. Slow speech / language development. 3. Less socialisation; 4. addictive tendencies. Okay, so here are my answers to these:
1. My kids’ all-time-favourite place is the beach, closely followed by the playground or my neighbour’s pool. Given the choice, all three would hands-down go for the outside activity.
2. Hubby was worried about the effects of TV on our middle child. When she was 2, her favourite activity was watching TV (it was just a phase) and he pestered me with questions like ‘they say TV is bad for young kids, why are you letting her watch it all he time?’ (Not that I was, but he didn’t see that). When I explained that ‘their’ reason TV was so bad was because kids who watched TV learned fewer words than kids who didn’t watch so much,(apparently it’s a loss of approximately six new words per hour,) he stopped worrying. Although she was only two, she spoke like a four year old.
3. My kids socialize around the PS2 just the same way that other children socialize around their favourite family toy or object. Lessons in sharing, taking turns, winning and losing gracefully, not being bossy with each other, encouraging each other, coping with jealousy and the odd tantrum, helping each other, teaching each other, all come into play.
4. Addictive tendencies – this is a biggie for me, seeing as I’m a gambling addict myself. Miss 7 knows the words ‘addict’ and ‘addicted’ and understands the harm an addiction can cause. We were given the PS2 when she was 4 1/2 and she quickly got hooked playing ‘Nemo‘. At first she didn’t understand why I limited her playtime, but then one Saturday I let her play for as long as she wanted too. Five hours later, she was complaining of sore eyes and sore thumbs. It was a lesson she learned very quickly, that excess, even in the things that you love, can be bad. she also saw how her desire to play Playstation non-stop had cost her fishing time with Daddy, and that it was better to control her desire, rather than have her desire controlling her. (One smart cookie, that kid! And the best bit is… she teaches her siblings what she’s learned!)
So having thwarted – or at least, annulled in part – the objections, these are my hopes:
1. My children are learning to problem solve, by having to rely on themselves to work out how new games work. Hopefully, these problem solving skills will be transferrable to problems that they encounter IRL. They’re also problem solving in digital media that will undoubtedly be a huge part if their lives. And the strategies of dealing with disappointments and triumphs, will hopefully also be transferred.
2. Not so much on the PS2, but firstly with computer games and now with Apps, I am continually amazed at how quickly kids can learn the numbers, letters, sight words and sums. Yes, I have ‘game’ apps too, but most of my apps are maths based, word and alphabet based, and kids books. And they’re all free.
Miss 4 left the nurses at Nambour Hospital flabbergasted a couple of months ago. She was being wheeled in for surgery to remove the wires in her elbow, and she was correctly completing two digit sums on ‘Addition & Subtraction for kids‘. And she was only three. (Check out this App if you haven’t come across it yet – the fish that looks like Nemo works quite well at attracting the kids!)
I’d say, the way they’re going, both she and Mr 2 will be quite ahead-of-the-game when they start school. Well, maybe not ahead of the classmates who also have had similar exposure to such learning opportunities, but ahead-of-the-curriculum, at any rate!
3. My children are learning the value of ‘rewards for work’. Yes, Miss 7 and Miss 4 have spent a large chunk of the past few weeks (since the rain set in) on the PS2. But they’ve only had one hour ‘free’. The rest of the time, they’ve had to ‘earn’ it. Write a ‘story’, get half-an-hour. Complete a page in an activity book, get 20 minutes. Complete two hard pages, get an hour. And Miss 7′s iPod timer keeps us all accurate – and reinforces the mathematical ‘time’ concepts, too!
So, that’s it. My three ‘hopes’ for my digital babysitter’s teaching abilities. What do you think? Agree? Disagree? Have any more arguments for or against to add? I’d love to hear them!
Oh – and today’s photo is Miss 7 down at Caloundra. Taken by the incomparable Greg Parsons, photographer extraordinaire and all around great guy.