Yes, My 4-Year-Old Has A Tablet

kids tech toysEarlier this year, my mom and I were discussing holiday preparations and Christmas cookie recipes when she mentioned that my dad had bought a special gift for the two grandchildren, my 4-year-old daughter and my 7-year-old niece. “He got the girls tablets,” my mom told me. And I almost spit out whatever I was drinking. I could not imagine giving a kindergartner a tablet for Christmas.

A couple of days later, I sat down to lunch with my dad. “Did you really get the girls tablets?” I asked him. I was just shocked at the idea. So my lovely father explained his reasoning. And really, he sold me on it.

First of all, my daughter and her cousin had spent their entire lives seeing each other on a weekly basis. Really, they were more like siblings than cousins. They shared everything. They spent an enormous amount of time together. They were best friends. Then, my sister and her family moved three hours away. The transition was proving to be extremely difficult for both girls. Giving them tablets allowed them to call each other with Skype whenever they wanted.

Aside from Skype, the mini-machines had a few choice games that the girls were already used to from our smartphones, Angry Birds and Ant Smashers and the like. They were connected to our Netflix accounts, so the girls could watch cartoons and movies on demand. And they had a large selection of e-books ready for the girls to peruse. The tablets weren’t going to have data plans to be used anywhere, they would simply hook up to available WiFi.

To set up the computers, the girls got their own emails and Google Play accounts. My dad also took the time to load some family pictures and kid’s music. These little computers were by far the most elaborate gifts that the girls would get for Christmas.

But the things were not without controls. They could not make or receive calls from anyone that we hadn’t added to their contact list on Skype. They could only visit sites pre-approved and programmed by my sister and I. They could not purchase anything without our confirming it. Yes, they were computers, but they were safely monitored computers.

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  • Eileen

    I went out to dinner with my boyfriend awhile ago, and there was a couple with their five-ish-year-old son at the next table. Literally throughout the entire meal, the kid was playing on his iPad and ignoring his mother’s attempts to get him to eat his spaghetti. I think that was the first time BF and I said anything for-real about the possibility of our having a kid together, and that thing was, “We will not buy our kid a tablet.” I’ve re-committed to this statement pretty much every time I’ve been out in public where there are children. This may not be your daughter at the moment, but there seems to be a shortage of children who can amuse themselves, or accept that sometimes things are boring and you still have to be polite, because they have their tablets and can instantly bring up something more interesting, all without interacting with other human beings.

    It’s not just about public rudeness, though. I don’t care what the restrictions are; if you have your own tablet you don’t have to share. I shared a single computer and a single television with my whole family until I left for college. The result was that a) no single person watched all that much TV or spent all that much time on the computer, b) we had to come out of our bedrooms and interact with the family, and c) we SHARED. Did it seem awesome and decadent when I went to my best friend’s house and could watch a movie in her bedroom? Sure. Am I really glad I didn’t have a TV or computer of my own in my bedroom? Yes.

    • Rebecca

      Our kids share an iPad, but they’re not allowed to leave the house with it. Letting your kid play video games when dinner is sitting in front of him is a parenting problem.I couldn’t imagine a universe where I would put up with that.

    • lea

      “but there seems to be a shortage of children who can amuse themselves, or accept that sometimes things are boring and you still have to be polite, because they have their tablets and can instantly bring up something more interesting, all without interacting with other human beings”

      Not just children.

  • TheLily

    I’m not sure my kids will have their own tablet, but much like cellphones this is becoming the norm. Times are much different than when I was a kid for sure (I don’t know how old you are, but I would presume my age or older), no one I knew had a cellphone. My mom got one for her business and that was that. I wasn’t amazed or enthralled with it at the time. When I was sixteen, I would have given my right leg to have a cellphone. I got my own laptop before I got a cellphone, but that was because I paid for the computer. My parents eventually got me a cellphone (after I walked home in the woods after a bear was spotted in our driveway. My mom, surprisingly thought I was a moron and wanted to be able to monitor me.)

    I don’t think that kids and electronics are a bad thing. In this time, right now, everyone has a cellphone. Everyone has a computer. Everyone has a tablet. These are common place things and it will get to the point where all children have them. You would have never seen a kid with a cellphone 20 years ago, but now they make cellphones specifically for young children. Kids didn’t have their own cameras when I was a kid, but now there are cameras made for kids. Hell, Barbie has a freakin’ digital camera now.

    This is the natural progression of things, and I think that honestly, your defence is GREAT. You’re looking at the bigger picture as to what you daughter will do with it. I can tell you, right now, my mother didn’t monitor my internet use and I got into some bad scrapes before I got my laptop. She actually thought I was going out to meet people from chatrooms (and I did once. One time. ONLY once), and she didn’t bat an eye.

    You’re being a responsible mother and not just handing her an expensive toy and letting her go and do whatever she likes. I commend you on that. :D

  • once upon a time

    It’s as if you’ve deliberately missed the point. The mere fact of your child having a tablet isn’t what prompted the comments, it’s the context in which it was presented. Do you honestly not see the problem in asking, “Why is my child so spoiled?” when you present an anecdote that begins with her being petulant and manipulative about not getting the doll she wants, and ends with her pulling out her tablet and Skyping her cousin to bitch about it?

    At least you didn’t pull out the old, “Should we mothers be supporting each other rather than tearing each other down?” I give you props for that.

  • Garret Acord

    One thing I dont understand is this. Why not just gt a tablet for yourself and let your kids use it? Why have an expensive thing in the hands of a child that could easily break in their hands? Its not as if having Stimulation is bad.

    • StephKay

      Exactly what I always wonder. We seem to debate the topic as though it’s all or nothing, but what’s wrong with just having a family device? In my house we don’t actually have a home computer but my husband and I each have an iPad and a smartphone. His go to work with him, mine stay with me (when we’re both at home and just need to google something we just grab the nearest device), we both have a bunch of kids apps on our devices. We only have one tv in the house that we all share, so clearly its doable. If my three year old wants to use it she’ll just say “can I read a story on mommy’s iPad?” or “can I watch max and ruby on daddy’s iPad?”. She asks infrequently enough that we rarely have to say no, and it’s so simple to keep everything safe and controlled when she’s using our Skype to talk to grandma, our Netflix to watch a movie, our iTunes account to play apps. There’s a place for technology, and for us it’s been simple to just have these tools on hand and share them as necessary. Of course my kids are only barely three, and a seven month fetus, so it’s entirely possible this is just a matter of me totally not understanding older kids, but I think from the most part (and the way I was raised myself) there’s really no problem in just having shared household technology.

  • Rebecca

    Really when you look at how expensive the leap pad games are you’re really better off getting an ipad. Refurbs are much cheaper and have the same warranties as the brand new ones and there are tons of cheap or free apps. At least a tablet can grow with your kids. A 12 year old can enjoy it just as much as a 4 yr old. My husband works in tech so we have just about any device you could want and our kids get the hand me downs when things have to be updated for work. Our families are from the country and to them iPhone’s and tablets seem crazy and excessive, but to us it’s as normal as breathing.

  • Andrea

    Having expensive toys do not make kids spoiled. Kids are spoiled when they are not taught manners and values. My kids have ipods, computers, PSPs, cell phones,and DSis and they are not brats. They work hard at school and other activities and I can afford them, so they get them. They are also taught to be grateful and to give to others.

    Being a brat has nothing to do with material possessions. It’s about the parenting.

  • meteor_echo

    I don’t have a problem with a kid having a tablet, to be honest. I got my first computer when I was, what, 7 or 8? I even saved up for an upgrade, but then again, I was told how much a computer costs. I also was told that repairs would be very costly, so I treated it extremely carefully.
    Having expensive items does not make one spoiled, treating them badly does.

  • Bluebelle

    “But now, you won’t see me apologizing or feeling bad because my 4-year-old happens to have a high-tech toy. It’s perfect for her, and both she and I are grateful for it.”

    Then what prompted this post? Guilt over the “my child is spoiled? post? Once Upon A Time’s comment nails it.