Earlier 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.