I came across an NYT blog Pogue’s Post about the author’s 6 year old son’s addiction to iPad. Though he states that they do have rules about not having the kids use the iPads on schooldays, his problem was the huge meltdown that happens everytime his son has to stop playing the iPad. The author also has come to question the conventional wisdom of electronic gadgets being harmful to kids since his son is not just playing games but using creative apps that creates cool animated shorts and also music.
Evan’s drawing and writings from school. First drawing is from November before we started our writing exercises at home.
Second drawing is from January, a few weeks after we did our spelling and writing exercise at home. I asked him if his teachers helped him with the spelling and he said no. =) What a marked difference from the 2 months before.
Third drawing is from last week’s. He says that’s me on the bench and him on the slide. I love these drawings and writings! I am also floored at the amount of progress in just a couple of months. Young children catch on so quickly it’d be a pity to have this window of time wasted on meaningless screen time when their brains are like sponges for learning new things.
As an artist, a mom of a 5 year old and somebody who teaches iLife apps I couldn’t help but comment on his blog. I have to come clean, I have strong feelings against video games. I think it is mindless and is a waste of time. But I don’t feel the same way about educational iPod apps. In fact I have a few of those in my iPod Touch which I let Evan play when we are in the restaurants or shopping in the grocery store. I believe these apps are good for rote memory much like educational DVDs are. After all my son mastered the phonics at 1 & 1/2 years old through a DVD.
BUT, but if you want your children to learn something from scratch, there is no app for that. Sure they may know new words, much like a kids’ tv show will teach your children, but if you want to them to learn how to write, how to read and how to add/subtract there is no substitute for teaching them in person. I confess I tried to take the easy way out and had my son practice writing his letters on my iPod with an Tracing Letters app (I hated writing drills as a child and didn’t want my son to go through that), or try prepare him for kindergarten with Teach Me Kindergarten app where he does addition, subtraction and spelling, which he did well while playing the iTouch but in real life? They were entirely useless. Except for getting some peace time while having lunch date with friends for me and entertainment for him.
If my 5 year old can write his letters, add and subtract from his head and spell now it is because everyday we set aside an hour to work on them. Everyday. No shortcuts.
It is the same with creativity. Parents try to assuage their feelings of guilt in having their children play with the iPad for hours by thinking that their kids are getting something out of it. As I’ve said, if they are using apps that exercise rote memory, some apps are helpful. But being creative? I have to ask, how much creativity do they get from doing drop and down of ready made artworks (originally created by another person) to make those animated shorts? Or how much musicality is involved from drag and drop ready-made loops?
As an art teacher, I will say that there is so much more creativity in using paper and scissors, crayons, playing with legos, not to mention the different ways these children are using and exercising their motor skills and imagination. The end products may not have the Oomph factor as those produced by the iPad apps (which, we must remember, are programmed by grown-ups) but for certain spent their time 90% smarter and more productive than their peers playing with the iPad. Imagine those tiny finger muscles sending questions to the brain in how to handle the complexities of holding a pencil, a paint brush, scissors, coloring with a crayons or doing a 2 finger chord on the piano. Compare that to the 2 repetitive motions of an iPad screen: tapping and swiping.
Nothing beats creativity that uses imagination, motor skills (batman’s ears were drawn and cut-out in bond paper) and resourcefulness (using his regular hooded jacket as cape). Nope, there is no app for that!
While just as I strongly believe that it is also beneficial for young children to be exposed to the latest technology and letting them be aware of what’s available to them (I am currently teaching my son Photoshop to wow him with the program), but the next time we hand our children these gadgets think of the total amount of time your child is going to be spending away. As one commenter said, his college age son regrets all the hours he has used up playing video game and wishes he had just played the piano instead or other real world skills that can be used in his life.
So I would say, treat these iPad apps as how you would view tv/DVD watching. They really aren’t that much different. And if your child is like the author’s who has a meltdown everytime the iPad is taken away from him? Sell the iPad on eBay. The stress isn’t worth it and your child won’t be missing anything…intellectually and creatively.