A few days ago I watched a child, about six, reach into her little purse, pull out an iPhone, sit on a store shelve where she started playing Angry Birds.
For a long time I’ve been appalled by the number of small children who have very expensive phones that they use more as toys than as communication devices. When a child is given a phone to keep in touch with parents, that’s a very good thing. Add texting and that can be okay, but does a child really need any more than that?
A friend explained to me why parents get smart phones for their kids. First, the price might be good. Second, they used to get hand-held electronic games for their kids, so a smart phone is the same thing, just better.
I’d say it’s more than better.
As I watched the child playing Angry Birds, it was obvious it wasn’t the first time she played the game. I imagine that smart phone is pretty much her entire world. However, I could have the whole thing wrong. I’m not the child’s parents. Maybe it isn’t her phone. Maybe either mom or dad lends her the phone in situations such as shopping where she is likely to get bored. I’d rather have a child playing with my phone than screaming because shopping when you can’t buy anything is boring.
I’m hoping that’s the case. That when they get home rather than tell her to play with her phone, they send her outside to play or show her the new book they just got for her and invite her to page through it (a child doesn’t need to be able to read in order to enjoy a book).
Better to have her exploring the world through books and becoming an avid reader which can help lead her in all sorts of directions and into a world of careers. I realize there are a number of skills that can be developed (eye-hand coordination, maybe problem solving, a competitive nature to list just three), but the careers that do not require an ability to read are not the kind of jobs most people expect their child to want.
It seems to me it would be much more valuable to raise a child who wanted to read before playing with any kind of electronic game. If it’s a choice between a smart phone and a book, I’ll be giving my granddaughter a book… lots of them.