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My Little Future iPad Addicts

This new generation masters screen-swiping years before butt-wiping. So why am I still insisting on rules?
 
 
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A friend of mine recently texted her baby sitter to confirm a 7 p.m. arrival. She received a quick “yep” right back. But there was something else in the text, too: the sitter’s personal tag line, which read, “I eat tha pussé.”

I spit out my coffee when my friend shared this with me.  Look, Cr8zSexyThang99, I thought.  No judgment on your sexual practices (or your spelling), but is the vagina shout-out really necessary? I mean, on your own time, do what you want — go for it! But it’s hard enough monitoring what my kids are doing online. I don’t want to be up at night worrying that I’m paying their baby sitter $16 an hour for lessons in sexting.

Welcome to parenting in the digital age. Figuring out how to ensure that my daughter, 5, and son, 4, don’t grow up to be iPhone-addicted oversharers feels like a losing battle. Britain identified the  youngest iPad “addict” in April — a little girl, age 4 — propelling my anxiety into a new stratosphere of Oh My God These Kids Are All Going To Be In Straitjackets type of thinking. Maybe it sounds early to be worrying this way, but my kids don’t exactly scream “we can manage our own media intake, Mom.” At home, my son excels at growing his “boogie collection,” a green, pus-like blob of boogers he wipes on the side of his bed. My daughter has a habit of leaving her beloved  buhbuh, a soft bunny-blanket-combo with whom her attachment is fierce, in odd places. And yet, the media onslaught is all around them: You can’t fill up a tank of gas, take a cab or get a haircut today without having a video, usually one involving Kim Kardashian’s baby bump, blasted onto your eyeballs.

So I decided to exert some control over the situation. Much like a crazed woman alphabetizing her cosmetics to manage her nervous breakdown, I have put my children on a technology diet: one hour of TV on weekdays, family movie night on the weekends, and no access to iPads, iPhones or video games except on airplane trips. (And for other hostage situations, like when the stomach virus swats all four of us to the ground in a single night.)

Navigating this terrain of Parenthood 2.0 has been a challenge. Buckling her seat belt on a recent trip to Atlanta, my 5-year-old daughter frothed at the mouth like an overheated horse as I pulled my iPad out of its sleeve. By hour three of the “Dora’s Adventures” app, her eyes bugged out like she’d been on a 24-hour cocaine binge. Her fists pumped in the air to the beat of “Do-do-do-do-do-Dora!” at 12 times normal volume and speed. I pretended not to notice her mania and returned to my magazine. We’ll be landing soon, I thought.

But I see children lost in the netherworld of portable devices daily, especially here in the Bay Area. Last month, I met a friend for dinner at a popular spot in the trendy Mission district. As the hostess walked us to our table, we passed a family of four dining together. The mother and father were chatting over their sauvignon blanc, while their toddler daughter and preschool-age son sat sucked into the vortex of their separate iPads, each enjoying a movie via personal headset. As I stared in amazement from our table, the children looked like dolls, sitting perfectly in their seats without moving an inch or making a sound. It looked like the grown-ups were playing “tea party,” and each had brought their own stuffed-animal-like “kid” to sit at the table with them and pretend to join in on the meal.

 
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