Kids and technology – a reader’s question

Hi Hadassah

How are things?  I have a question, a parenting one.  DH’s best friend was explaining how his son was all disappointed this X-mas because Santa didn’t bring some electronic game thing (i’m old, i don’t know what they are) and his friends are already receiving the new generation of these things.  His son is 6.  I think the parents were feeling 6 is too young for an electronic game thing, the are also hippy kind of parents, so i think chances are slim this child would ever receive any kind of gaming system.  My question is:  what age is appropriate to receive an electronic device:  mp3 player, game, cell phone, notebook etc?  My BFF is well off, and her 9 year olds have their own notebooks, and her eldest (11) has his own lap top.  I just kind of feel that when young kids have their own of these things, there seems to be a lack of parental control.  Who knows where in the cyber world they are heading to or talking to?  What do you think?  Is there an age limit on devices?

be well

Shorty

HSM: Readers – please weigh in!

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  1. When do you teach a child to cross the street or navigate other dangers in life? How well prepared are you to supervise your child’s activities – online, as in offline? Parental awareness and involvement is key. The Internet is such an integral part of our lives, now, like it or not – to send an unprepared 16, 18, or 65 year old out there without some instruction, guidance, supervision, and control is risky. It’s a skill and set of behaviors to be taught, like any other.

    When it comes to gaming systems, it’s largely a question of learning time-management skills, discipline, and figuring out whether you or your child have an addictive personality – and what to do about that. Can the child clearly differentiate between fiction and reality, or is the gaming experience SO immersive, and his imagination SO active, that it is overlapping reality? (If the latter, I strongly suggest staying clear of any first-person shooter games.) On the plus side, studies have shown that being good at video games correlates to hand-eye coordination skills and the kind of skills needed to be a pilot (and other handy military activities, I believe). It’s good for learning to formulate strategies for solving complex problems.

    Six isn’t too young, but then again – six is WAY too young to start developing a “must keep up with the Joneses” mentality. That’s the part that would concern me that most.

  2. Lisa says:

    For a six year old, I’m not thinking its “keep up with the Joneses” so much as a need to not be weird or different from their friends. To be able to talk about the same things that interest their peer group. I have an 8 DD and 12 DS and this is struggle in our home as well.

    We have technology – but there is a constant push to consume the latest games. DS especially wanted a particular system that plays “first person shooter” games. These are banned in our home as I find them offensive in the extreme. So had to examine the why behind the request. This was a forum in which he could contact his friends after school (we don’t live near their school). So we allowed a facebook account that would accomplish the same goal, but not have this senseless violent component.

    I agree with Holly that the internet is an integral part of our lives and like anything you need guidance and preparation to navigate the system. Our two kids have unfiltered access to the internet (I don’t believe in censorship programs), but that computer is in the family room where we can see every site they access. It also gives us many topics of discussion at dinner!

    So yes to technology – but like Holly says above, know your child, know their motivation behind it and see if you can create a win so that it doesn’t become forbidden fruit.

  3. My initial reaction was “6!! Way too young for tech stuff!! ” but then when I read Holly and Lisa’s comments, I realized that they are spot-on about technology being an integral part of our lives. I’m not at this stage yet, but my not-quite two-year-old already wants to play with our digital camera, my husband’s pager, the phones, the laptop….so I can see where this is going.

    I suppose as long as the parents develop a set of ground rules which jives with their parenting philosophy and what they feel to be appropriate re: what they want their children to be exposed to in their home, then let the next-gen tech-savviness ensue!

  4. batya from NJ says:

    I am happy to have filtering programs on my son’s & my own computer (which is also a family computer) & i am able to deactivate the filters when need be. I happen to feel that the internet is an EXTREMELY dangerous place for young ppl to navigate & I want to keep my family as safe as possible. I will add that b/f we purchased the filtering sites, I was horrified when i checked the computer’s history & saw some of the very inappropriate websites that my children had accessed which was totally not necessary for them to be exposed to especially at such a young age.

    Then again, my son who is currently 15 has an I-pod touch which concerns me since it has unrestricted internet access without any filters & that is a serious concern of mine. Taking it away from him is also not simple b/c he paid for it with his own money which makes it more complicated. I’m honestly kicking myself for allowing him to buy it & truthfully i was unaware of the internet connection at the time of the purchase. Also, when he bought it, he seemed to indicate that it cost extra to activate the internet but after the fact, i found out that that was not the case :(. I really need to figure out some way to limit his unlimited internet access on the Ipod touch b/c it is a serious concerns…

    I will add though that my 19 yr old daughter who is in college has a laptop with complete access to the internet & all i can hope is that she is using it appropriately but i think she is at this age & stage in her life.

    regarding the gaming systems, each family has to do what they are comfortable doing. if shorty’s friend doesn’t want to buy the gaming system she shouldn’t have to. she (or santa ;)!) is the boss & NOT the 6 year old even they are affluent & all of his peers have it. at some point, shorty’s friend may change her feeling on the matter, but as the adult, she gets to make the final decision for her 6 year old but it surely gets trickier the older the kids get & all their friends have this gaming system or that gaming system…bottom line, this parenting thing ain’t easy!!!

    • shorty says:

      i’ve thought about your situation for a long time. What to do when child pays for device. And this is what i think (not that i know if its practical), but rules of the land apply. That is, if the child is not allowed open internet access at home, they aren’t allowed to buy devices that gives it to them. I think parents apply this rule in some ways…for instance, a child (or teen) may not be allowed to watch certain shows in the house. You would also hope they wouldn’t be watching it at someone else’s house. I know realistically that doesn’t happen. I can even think more extreme, i would assume most parents wouldn’t want t their kids doing drugs, and them spending their own cash on it doesn’t make it somehow more allowable. Anyway, that’s my take on the technology/ paying for it themselves thing. Like i said, i know that with kids, certain ideas aren’t practical.

      • batya from NJ says:

        shorty, it’s funny that you responded to this today b/c just last night i finally got around to disabling my son’s internet browser on his i-pod touch & last night we also purchased an app called mobicip that will i believe monitor & restrict his internet access but for now his safari browser is disabled but he does have fb & youtube access which is allowed on his home computer as well (which does have netnanny/content watch filtering on it).

        • batya from NJ says:

          i should add that even though we purchased this Mobicip app, we haven’t exactly figured out how it works so we need to get around to figuring that out but for now i am happy that he doesn’t have unrestricted internet access on his i-pod touch-it’s about time!!

  5. Rabbiswife says:

    My parents just gave my girls their first laptop, an old one of my mom’s. It plays their DVDs and they can push all the buttons they want without messing up one of the nice laptops. It’s been very helpful. My girls are 2 and 3. the 3 year old can already start the movie and play with the paint program in a meaningful way. Is it too early for them to have a laptop for a toy? Maybe, but as long as I can control the access (i.e. no internet) and decide when it is time to put it away, that’s what is important.

  6. rubyv says:

    Pixie has an old POS desktop which we gave her for Internet use. She can only go to pre approved sites – anything else requires that I type in a password. If I am working in my office upstairs, the program will send me a request via email. I can then review and approve or not. She has maybe a dozen or so sites she can visit. My feeling is that technology is like anything else in life – you have to teach them the skills needed to stay safe, make good decisions, supervise, and at some point, let go.

  7. Kathy says:

    I have a 9yo DS who loves video games, and an 8yo DD who doesn’t really care that much. We allow both children to have go to age appropriate sites on the internet using the family computer, but generally do not allow them to take the laptop into their rooms, so they are using it in public rooms of the house. We allowed our son to get a DS (hand held electronic gaming device) when he turned 7, since nearly all his friends had one and he felt left out of the crowd. We are very careful with the games he is allowed to purchase or play with it (games are rated E for everyone are allowed, 10+ games not yet, etc). We recently got a gaming system for our family room, and I like being able to watch the kids playing it. Again, we are careful about what games are allowed.

    For our son, there are both personal interest in these and not being different from friends, so we try to be sensitive to his desires.

    Both kids want mp3 players and cell phones, but for now they are too young. In part, it’s a question of what would do with them if you had them.

    It is difficult some times knowing how to set the right boundaries.

  8. mrsmelissasg says:

    there is a 3rd grader at the religious school i teach at who takes his ipad on the playground for recess every week. it just seems to promote antisocial behavior and lethargy. not ideal in my world.

  9. Brenda Mommy says:

    Like many of the other posters here, we house our family computer in a family room where all sites can be seen and monitored. My 6 yr old son knows how to access his favorite sports teams’ websites (if I help him spell them correctly) and my 4 yr old daughter loves to repeatedly play her preschool games and stories over and over on her own. We dance together in the living room to various youtube videos that I select (the wiggles, Israeli music, disney film clips, etc). But I can see how it would be easy for them to accidentally gain access to questionable sites for their level of maturity. At this stage, they always ask permission to use the computer and have not yet figured out how to navigate on their own- I hope we can keep it that way for just a little longer….

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