Please Pass The AngryBirds. Dining Out With Kids And IPads

Everyone knows how difficult it is to dine out with children. One Silicon Valley wag has a solution: give each of your kids an iPad. Really.

His argument about how parents shouldn’t fear the iPad isn’t all bad. He points out that it’s basically a television replacement device and that as far as that goes, it’s a massive improvement. Your kids will be subject to many fewer commercials or inappropriate content. And they can interact with what they’re watching and possibly learn more, too. Also this:

* The iPad can be taken outside.

* The iPad can encourage the following of curiosity and discovery. By loading that sucker with a huge number of educational programs, kids can explore and search and discover what their interests really are, rather than being spoon-fed a celebrity-obsessed, shallow and limited set of interests by the commercial-driven TV industry.

* The iPad builds skills. By using an iPad, children can learn typing, multi-touch navigation, problem solving (with puzzles and games) and many other skills. Watching TV imparts zero valuable skills.

* The iPad can actually facilitate parenting. One example of many is a new app called ”You Did It!,” which lets kids earn points for doing their chores.

It’s hard to argue with many of these points in the iPad’s favor. And all of the freakouts over technological improvements can be quite overblown. Not to get all Marshall McLuhan on everyone but his “the medium is the message” line seemed most terrifying about the television, where you sit passively and receive as opposed to engage.

And yet, this iPad at the restaurant table business scares me. Believe me, I’d love to do that for my girls. We’re tech junkies and had the 1-year-old trying out Angry Birds at the Mac store. Yes, our children would sit more quietly at a restaurant table with an iPad and we’d love to keep them quiet. But the fact is that we think our job as parents is to teach our children how to dine appropriately. That means that we teach them to converse with us, ask and answer questions, eat appropriately (as in, no, you should not stick the eggplant in your ear, thank you very much) and for the love of all that’s holy, learn how to drink with a straw. Seriously, our little one is just ridiculous with her inability to understand basic physics.

For these reasons, even if we did have the money for individual iPads, I’d feel uncomfortable making them anything more than an exceptionally rare aid at the dinner table.

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