Married Life: depriving kids of iPads and tech devices makes them forbidden fruit

Doesn’t banning something simply make it even more desirable, thus defying the purpose? When has forbidding something ever worked for a curious child?

Somewhere on a social media feed, a concerned parent (or opinionated anti-tech advocate) shared a Huffington Post blog that presented “10 reasons why hand-held devices should be banned for children under the age of 12”. An eye-catching title, certainly, but is there substance beyond that headline, despite the 350,000 shares on Facebook?

The author, Cris Rowan, refers to research studies to support her claims; but, scientists everywhere were up in arms about this “hack-ademic” writing. The post oversimplifies the scientific research, drawing largely nonsensical and deeply flawed conclusions that are riddled with far too many holes.

I will leave it to the experts to tear apart the science portion of Rowan’s article; to me, the most mind-boggling part of the viral post was the word “ban”.

I just can’t fathom the idea of banning something that has become such an everyday item, normal in the household and as deserving of daily use as a toothbrush. And I’m not just saying this because Baby A cannot get through a meal without the blessed distraction of our iPad.

Besides, doesn’t banning something simply make it even more desirable, thus defeating the purpose? When has forbidding something ever worked for a curious child? The more elusive, the more attractive to a child, no? That even applies to adults. The more I think about it, the more it seems to me that banning hand-held devices would be akin to banning French fries or chocolate. Banning iPads and smartphones and Nintendos is just like banning yummy food that most would agree is bad for you, and here are three reasons why.

First, everything in moderation. Screen time should be moderated and supervised, not banned entirely. There’s a difference between showing a child the world and letting a child explore and discover it in novel ways, which is why iPads and computers are being used in schools. If Baby A learns her alphabet from a video or app on the iPad, rather than from a book alone, does it matter, as long as she learns?

Second, techies will be techies. You’re either a techie parent, or you’re not. And, if you fall in the former category, like Mr T, you’ll have no problem sitting with your child and exploring various educational apps on the iPad together. No ban will stop you. Mr T sees the computer or the iPad or even the smartphone as a teaching tool that will expose Baby A to the world of literacy, numeracy and science.

Third, the hypocrisy of it all. Until we adults agree to put down the glass of wine, turn off our cell phones, unplug our microwaves, stop eating sugary foods, ban cigarettes and remove any trace of the hundreds of known harmful things that populate our homes and communities, should we really be telling our kids to toss out their hand-held devices?

I’d take moderation, education and awareness any day over a ban. Our ability to use hand-held devices has become like any other indispensable life skill. A child that hasn’t been exposed to the world of technology will face tremendous challenges. I wouldn’t want that for Baby A.

The writer is a freelance journalist living in Abu Dhabi

Published: May 18, 2014 04:00 AM

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