On Sundaywe spent the day in London celebrating D's birthday. The train price, even on aSundayis disgusting (£89pp return for a 1 hour 20 journey!) so we drove down and parked at Stanmore and tubed it in to town. E adored her first tube journey and we all had a great day. She sat and coloured pictures of pizza in Prezzo, and having been so well behaved but on the turning point of bored,she showed off her knowledge of animals to a friend while engaging him in a few rounds of Peekaboo Barn. But the drive home was really tricky as she was too excited post Hamleys and a tube journey in the dark for a nap. She asked to watch doggies on the iPad (Hairy Maclary) but I soon became aware that she was happily navigating her way around the tablet, opening the apps she recognised as games, playing them, and then switching to something else, in the same way not so long ago I realised she had learned to switch between episodes I had downloaded for her.
I am impressed that my 20 month old can do this. I am in awe of how someone so young understands technology and how she can do it all without my help. I am thankful for the iPad and its entertainment skills in numerous situations. Then yesterday morning I was reading an article on Parentdish about the phenomenon of the iMum; about how our smart phones stop us parenting effectively and giving our children our sole attention as we are lured into checking emails, a tweet, a Facebook message. Guilty as charged. I have sat on my phone over lunch and E and I Facetimed daddy last night to find out how he was getting on after he went suit shopping. E knows the difference between my iPhone 5 and D's iPhone 4 and returns them if found to their rightful owner.
So are we developing iChildren too? I was talking with a colleague the other day, whose nephew attends the same nursery as E and is about 8 months older than her, about how after a trip to the park they returned home and to his utter astonishment his nephew flicked on the tele, got out a DVD, put it in the DVD player and kicked back on the sofa. Aged 2 and a half. Clever? Or a reflection on the age our children live in? When I picked E up from nursery last night they had the technology baskets out and 6 toddlers sat with phones to their ears or were pretending to take photographs with old cameras. E spends a lot of her day photographing the dollies apparently... I wonder where she learned that....? This, I understand, is evidence within the EYFS that out children have an understanding of the world around them. I'm sure that even as a child myself I would not have understood the world of 2013.
I was pondering this on the commute to work and found myself exclaiming to D "no wonder children can no longer do maths without calculators". I suspect there is truth in my outburst. Our children have so much technology at their fingertips they no longer need to go to the library to research, or use their fingers to add up, or sit and write thank you cards for their birthday presents. It's just there on their phones. My kids at school even record their homework in their phones these days, their planners sit forgotten about at the bottom of their bags. Their faces suggest physical meltdown when you confiscate their phone for the day because you caught them BBM-ing at the back of your classroom. There is part of me that senses there is an element of inevitability here. Life uses technology to function these days and so I have no intention of taking away the iPad, the iLearning, the iConvenience of taming a fractious child in a busy restaurant. Ultimately they're going to need these skills in an ever more savvy world. And I can be sure there'll be a class set of iPads in her classroom when she starts school. But I'll be dammed if I'm going to be the parent getting calls home about the confiscated phone whose child seemingly has no ability to function without the world at her finger tips. We limit screen time here, be it TV and films or engaging in a counting game on the iPad. I hereby pledge that I am going to put my inner iMum away more often. And I will continue to strive for giving E the experiences we enjoyed as children, when iWorld didn't exist yet. Books, libraries, the abacus, Lego, farms, zoos, ruined castles, scooters, mud, grazed knees, baking and the good old fashioned pen and paper. After all, we didn't turn out so bad. And I can still just about navigate my way around a computer.
Are you on Facebook? I'm trying to stay iSavvy and use my page a little more!