Friday, May 23, 2008

Time Flies

The other day I heard a woman say she was going to go home and put in a video for her son while she cooked supper.
I had to do a double take. Her son is one and a half.

What a difference a decade makes. When my last child was born ten years ago, I had never heard about Baby Einstein videos. It is possible that, if they existed, I scoffed and wrinkled my nose, then promptly forgot about them, because I was too busy to think much at all. Maybe if I had used Baby Einstein videos I would have had some time to think, but as it stood, when I cooked supper, I propped babies in swings, or playpens near me, and sang and talked to them while I worked. They watched ME. When they "talked" back, I responded. It was a two-way dialogue.

When they toddled, I gave them access to the pot and tupperware cupboards. They played with pots and tupperware and pretended to cook when I did. They didn't watch a show about it.
By the time they were in preschool, they could help set the table, and "wash" dishes in the sink, all the while moving their little bodies, learning to manipulate things in the real world, and carrying on lengthy conversations.

Now we have infant videos. Swirly light show toys you can prop babies up in front of. Toddler software.

Access to technology can be a two-edged sword. It has been connected with improved reading skills and computer savvy, but it also has been blamed for ADD, gaming addiction, obesity, the virulent epidemic of affluenza, and social disconnection.

Professor Andrea Thau, spokeswoman for the American Optometric Associations, advises:

Children need appropriate visual stimulation for sight to develop normally. Parents should limit TV and computer games, especially in children under six whose sight is still developing, though the effects occur in older children too.

Parents, get your very young children away from the television. Let them color near you while you work. Give them books on tape whose pages they can turn when they hear the little "ding."
Take time to read to them several times per day, and always take time to explain things to them, ask them questions about how they think things work. There will be time for technology by the time they are learning to read. Those precious early years will soon be gone forever.