In this era of iPads, tablets, iPhones, and androids, we as parents need to think before we download and decide whether we really need a smart phone app for that. Technology has taken over our schools, our offices, and our lives. No longer do we communicate with one another in person or by phone, but rather we tweet, text, email, like and share. We are losing our humanity one click at a time, and although we know this may be damaging our brains and our lives, ease and convenience rule.
The problem is that we are role models for our children and they too are losing out on important, real-life experiences, instead being taught that everything can be had with a tap, touch or swipe. With apps available to track everything from fitness to fun, we need be selective about our smart phone apps and decide whether to live in the present or through a cellphone. Here are just a few life experiences where you really don’t need a smart phone app for that…
Couples are quick to begin adding apps to their cellphones and tablets the moment they find out they’re pregnant, tracking everything from baby’s size, weight, and comparison to various types of fruits and vegetables. Although some of these apps may be fun and parents may enjoy the weekly updates on baby’s supposed progress, no two babies are the same and everything in these smart phone apps is simply a guesstimate, once baby is born parents should consider ditching the apps. There are smart phone apps for tracking breastfeeding, diaper changes, sleep patterns, and all things baby related. However, when it comes to babies they generally do not work well on schedules and patterns, which is really what apps are all about.
You do not need a smart phone app for breastfeeding unless doctor recommended. Since the beginning of time mothers have been breastfeeding their children without the assistance of a smart phone app to track their progress. Unfortunately, parents these days tend to get so caught up in the information coming from their app that they are not as attuned to their baby’s needs as in the past. Rather than simply breastfeeding on demand or at baby’s cries, new mothers look to their app to decide whether 2 hours has passed before deciding whether it is time to feed their baby. Although a timer may be useful in the first few weeks of exhaustion to wake a sleepy mama for feedings, mother and baby need to establish a routine specific to them, not based on a smart phone app. As parents, we need to spend less time on our electronic devices and more time bonding with our new baby.
Children all develop differently even within the same family so using smart phone apps for milestone management can cause unnecessary concern in new parents. Parents use apps these days to track everything from baby’s weight and height to their 1st time rolling over, their 1st steps, and potty training. Whether intentional or not, we all know that as new parents we are already our own worst enemy comparing our baby to our neighbor’s baby who is already crawling or our best friend’s baby who is an early walker.
As adults, we don’t use smart phone apps to tell us when to eat, sleep, or use the bathroom, so we should not teach our children in this manner either. Our kids need to learn how to rely on and interpret their body’s cues to tell them when they are hungry or need to use the potty. The overuse of smart phone apps is teaching the opposite and rather training our children to function on schedule.
Smart phone apps simply give our already overly anxious parenting brains more fodder to worry about, creating undue stress on both us and our children. Every child will develop at his or her own pace without a smart phone app telling us when they “should” be walking, talking, or sleeping through the night. We need to stop staring at our phones to see what our kids should be doing and spend more time in the present watching all of the amazing things they are actually accomplishing every day.
Teaching Letters and Numbers
Unfortunately, these days the education of our children is being relegated to the realm of computers, iPads, tablets, and apps both at home and at school. Although we all know hands-on education is much more effective and age-appropriate for our children, computers and tablets are taking over while pencils and chalkboards are becoming a thing of the past. Handwriting ability is declining along with the fine motor skills developed by its practice and most schools across the country are no longer teaching cursive as a part of their curriculum.
For those of us with younger children working on letters, numbers, sight words and simple math, parents should strongly consider forgoing the apps and stick with the basics. Giving our children at least a foundation without the tech develops early motor skills as well as the social skills the in-person education imparts. Rather than sitting your child on the couch with an app allowing a mouse to teach them their letters or numbers, spend time with your child working on these concepts and they will develop a better understanding. Read a book to your child instead of giving them headphones and an audiobook.
For the past 200 years innovators and researchers have emphasized the importance of concrete tools and manipulatives as a necessary component to developing a true understanding of educational concepts. So ditch the apps and teach your child to hold a pencil, write on paper, complete a puzzle, or work out math concepts with 3-D objects or counters rather than an iPad.
Good old grocery shopping is a necessary life skill that children need to learn and not from an app. As parents we are all busy and each new app or service that can make our lives just a little more convenient seems like a blessing, but at what cost? Food shopping at the grocery store not only teaches our children a life skill in terms of buying and making meals, but also teaches math skills, and social skills. Learning how to order meat from the deli or politely speaking to the cashier at checkout are all social interactions that our next generation will be lacking at this rate. As parents these teachable moments are becoming few and far between as we rely more and more on technology and online interactions than human ones.
Taking the time to grocery shop WITH our children impresses upon them the importance of mealtimes and feeding your family. It prepares them for life on their own one day and sets them up for a healthier future that is not full of pizza and takeout. Not to mention community grocery stores bring people together…oftentimes they are a place where lonely first-time moms may just meet in the produce section and strike up an otherwise unlikely friendship or a rambunctious toddler may just make a widowed, elderly woman’s day with a smile and coo. This is time well-spent that does not need to be replaced by a smart-phone app.
As a society, we seem to have come to a place where we are constantly questioning our humanity, or lack thereof. However, we fail look inward and see the root of the problem which may just be the detached manner of interacting with one another that seems to have become the norm. We no longer see ourselves as part of smaller, more personal, close-knit communities and rather envision ourselves as a part of a larger online community, “friends” with many people we have never even met. Our reliance on smart phone apps and technology has come at a price; that of human interactions with our communities and our children. Before you download think about your young and observant children watching you and ask yourself “do I really need an app for that?”
If you have decided your child might be ready for a tech device of their own check out The Mom's Guide to Kids and Technology before handling over that smart phone or tablet.