Allowing A Toddler To Play With An iPhone Is Lazy Parenting

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shutterstock_19528222__1394559793_142.196.167.223I’m a pro at admitting when I am wrong, because it happens a lot. I used to think it was no big deal that my three-year-old occasionally played with an iPhone, but some new stories and my own observations have me changing my mind. Handing my kid an iPhone to appease him because I know it will is just lazy parenting – and is probably doing way more harm than good. I just can’t ignore it anymore.

The 2-year-old who can nimbly use an iPad or kill a gazillion monsters playing a video game isn’t necessarily a genius, says Dr. Manfred Spitzer, a neuroscientist and psychiatrist. That child could be en route to trouble with memory and thinking, a condition Spitzer and others call “digital dementia.”

I had no problem allowing my child to play with my iPhone. I totally bought into the argument that it was no different than glancing through a book. I’ll admit that at times I turned a blind eye just because he would be captivated by it and I would be able to sneak a few moments to myself. But quotes like the one above and numerous other stories I’ve read as of late are really making me realize that I may be lightening my load at the expense of my toddler’s brain.

The biggest difference I observe, with my child playing with books compared to a digital device, is that if he is playing with a book, he will easily let it go and move on to the next thing if I ask him to. The iPhone is a totally different story. I basically have to pry the thing out of his hands. He seems to experience some anxiety parting with it. That can’t be a good sign, can it?

”When you use the computer, you outsource your mental activity,” Spitzer said in a talk last week at St. Edward’s University. While computers can be fine tools for adults who are using their minds all day long, they’re poison for kids, he said.

In the same vein, handing my child an iPhone occupies him way faster than if I hand him a book or a toy. He grabs it and is entertained immediately. I think that’s why at times I’ve been guilty of handing him a phone rather than dealing with getting him interested in something else that will occupy his time while I cook dinner, shower, make a phone call, etcetera. It’s just so easy.

I read an article last week listing all the reasons not to let your child play with handheld devices. I couldn’t argue with a single one. So I decided to go cold turkey with the iPhone – and although he still asks for it occasionally – it really hasn’t been a big deal. The most glaring thing I’ve noticed is that he spends more time in his room occupied by toys that I assumed he had no interest in. Instead of asking for a “phone” which he used to do – he asks for “toys.” And this is just in a week.

Look, I’m on team “mom and dad.” I’m not writing this to guilt anyone – if handing your kid your iPhone gives you the moments of peace that you desperately need, than you have to do what you have to do. I’m just letting you know – as someone who relied on one probably a little too much – it really wasn’t hard to break the habit. Especially when I realized it was my habit, not my child’s.

(photo: szefei/ Shutterstock)