That little guy staring at the screen up there would be my almost two-year-old son KJ, holding my wife's iPhone and playing Tiny Wings
. At his age, it's almost impossible for him to ignore technology, since he's always got some of it around him, making him more and more curious. But this started my wife and I wondering, "is this the right or wrong time to introduce him to tech?"
Let me start by saying that I'm no expert in the field, and I'm a first time parent. But these are some concepts that both my wife and I agree on, and maybe they're something you would consider for your child as well.
1. Limiting Tech Time: My biggest concern with our son is that he's going to grow up to be fat and lazy like, well, me. Since my parents never really had any interest in sports, neither did I, and as a result I'm just not that athletic. Since I'm now more of a sports guy, I want my son to learn the joys of playing outside and getting exercise, and that means limiting his time with shiny gadgets. Right now there's no set time limit, because he's still too young to really put that in place. But soon we'll be taking careful note of the time he spends with anything with a screen, and balancing it with exercise.
2. Spend Time Exploring With Him: We're pretty much an all-Apple household, so we've got an iPad handy that we use to teach him how to read, as well as play educational games with him. But we don't just throw him the iPad and let him have at it, we play with them together. Not only does it increase our bonding time, but while we're teaching him something as well. As an added bonus, it keeps the tech safe, too. Which brings me to ...
3. Make Sure the Tech is Replaceable I don't want to spend $300 or more on a new iPhone anytime soon, so when we do allow our son to play with it, we do so in a room with lots of carpeting, or in a generally padded area. Fact is, he's young and when he gets frustrated, he can start swinging things around, potentially breaking them in the process. Conversely, we don't let him play with our primary computers, because we rely on them for work. It's a matter of giving him some space, but not too much.
4. Play With Him: My wife and I are both gamers, so when our son sees us on the couch with a controller, he wants to hold one too. So to appease him and to have some fun together, we'll throw him on our lap, wrap our arms around him and play the game while he's holding his own. Because of his age, he mimics our movements and that's helping his hand-eye coordination. These skills are important even at this age, and have already translated into him hitting a wiffle ball a good 20 feet across our backyard -- with the wrong end of the bat.
(Image: Kevin Whipps)