What's Your Take on the Digital Babysitter?

A recent Associated Press article entitled, Adults Divided on Digital ‘Baby-Sitters’ made me think. The parent of an always-inquisitive 3-year-old little girl, I admit to having pushed the iPad across the table at many dinner outings so that my husband and I can have a little more stimulating conversation or feel a bit more relaxed versus always being on-guard to stop the next disaster (spilled drink, food thrown at another table, fork-in-the-eye, etc.). When it comes to parenting and new toddler activities, there are definitely pluses to these new gadgets. For one, take a look at all the educational and interactive applications available for the little ones.

Another huge plus is how tablets and apps have opened new learning and engagement opportunities for parents and caretakers of children with autism. Check out these 10 iPad Apps for Autistic Children.

Digital BabyI do believe that children need to engage with new technologies to stay current when it comes to technological trends and knowing the functionality of these new gadgets and platforms. Exploring new technologies today will help children complete in the marketplace tomorrow. It amazes me how my daughter knows how to get into my iPhone, navigate through my folders and find her games. She can do it so fast and seamlessly.

But, on more than a few occasions when we have gone out to dinner, my hubby and I have noticed kids that are completely tuned-out from the family conversation. Not only are they playing a game or watching a video, but they have their headphones on and never speak a word to their parents. This is disturbing.

Things just aren’t like the good ol’ days. When I was little and got home from school, the first thing I grabbed was a soccer ball or my bike. Not an iPad. I spent hours outside with friends till it was time to come in for dinner. Not hours playing video games. Texting was only a made up present participle for composing the written word. It is sad to think that many kids get bummed out when you ask them to go outside and play. There has to be a balance.

My brother-in-law enforced Tech-Free Thursdays in his house. All gadgets must be checked at the door when everyone gets home from work or school. One night dedicated to talking to one another, playing board games (yeah, they still have these and they are still just as fun) and maybe even a little song and dance. My brother-in-law says it’s funny…on Tech-Free Thursdays laughter fills the house, conversations last beyond the bedtime hour and no one seems to miss their devices.

I know that there’s a time and a place for all the gadgets and apps — I mean Rhythm Interactive is in the industry of working on these apps and customizing digital solutions. I know that these new mobile devices are revolutionizing how we live, do business and connect. I also know that these devices and the many apps out there can provide a different medium for learning. So, what are your thoughts? How should parents balance their children’s use of devices?