“No one walks down the aisle with a pacifier in his mouth.” “College admission offices aren’t going to ask how old she was when she was toilet trained.”
The above (one hopes) true statements are relayed to young parents as a way of saying, “Relax.” As such, they are valuable bits of advice from those whose children are older and who recognize that things that mattered greatly at one point became completely irrelevant down the line.
Not everything falls into this category, of course. Sometimes, things that happen in one’s early years have grave repercussions down the road. A mother who drank heavily or took drugs while pregnant may damage her child in a way that no later intervention will be able to correct. A baby deprived of sensory contact, affection and security might need to struggle mightily in future decades in order to live a happy life. These examples are extreme, but good people recoil at the not-so-uncommon scenario of a child given sugar as a major food group or one who is plopped in front of a screen for hours a day.
And then there are the things that we don’t realize are problems until they are. Over a number of decades, many parents made huge sacrifices to send their children to college only to find that the education those students received taught them to despise everything their parents treasured. At least today, the agenda of most colleges is blatant, giving every parent the option of being a knowledgeable consumer.
In the 1980s, computer games for children like Reader Rabbit and Carmen Sandiego debuted, along with games that worked on math and other educational skills. Children spent time playing these games, but they were an adjunct to the rest of their lives. Forty years later, the screen, with activities light-years removed from those innocent first offerings, has become the pivot around which many children’s lives revolve.
I’m not trying to lay a guilt trip on anyone, nor do I have the answer as to when and in what quantity children should be exposed to technology. However, I do know that enough information is available to suggest that every caring parent needs to form a conscious and deliberate answer to those questions. One trend that should give everyone pause is how many tech leaders and creators of apps and social media don’t allow their children to access their own creations.
A story is told of a newborn’s parents asking their rabbi when they should begin formulating the views on parenting. He responded that they were already nine months late. Today, by the time a child is seven or nine or thirteen, technology’s grip on them has often been established, frequently aided and abetted by schools. That is late in the game to begin to formulate an approach. Here is one article, with links to others, to help you begin today. (And, yes, I am aware of the irony that using technology is the easiest way to start researching this problem.)