A friend asked if he should buy his sons iPads or not as his 13 year old twin boys had been pestering him for iPads because they enjoy playing computer games and all their friends have iPads and smart phones.
My immediate response is No.
I have an iPad. I used it a lot. It is useful. I blog from it. I write bits of my book on it. So I am not prejudiced against iPads, but I have seen how wonderful a child’s outlook can be when he/she is not hooked to virtual/alternate reality.
Because my 16 year old daughter does not have one. She has never owned one. She does not even have an up-to-date iPhone. Hers is so old that it sometimes doesn’t work; she has no memory left on her iPhone.
Yet all her friends have brand new iPhones and iPads. In fact, her former school made it compulsory for each student to have his or her own iPad. Incredible as it may sound, she has not missed not owning one. She has never pestered us to buy her one. Sure, iPads can be educational tools, but she has her Mac Book for that as well as her homework.
What has it made her? A child who has to think things through instead of automatically reaching for Google. She also has more time to interact with us and her peers on car journeys and ‘boring’ moments instead of texting, watching movies on the move, social networking, etc. She is a brilliant raconteur and a fierce opposition in debates on any topic under the sun. But most of all, she is deeply connected to the physical world she lives in. Because she has no option of playing computer games or watching movies or obsess about social media, her curiosity and interests are focused entirely on the world around her. She has not lost her awe of the natural world, always alert to its nuances.
That’s her scrambling with her brother to investigate a freshwater rock pool nestled amongst these rocks, with sea water crashing beneath them. “Are the rocks slate or granite?” She asked. “How do you tell them apart? They both look almost the same, don’t they?”
“Slate looks more like concrete, more fine. Granite is more crystalline,” her older sister told her. “You can see bits of quartz in it. Slate on the other hand, is made of clay or volcanic ash.” And so, we all learned something new this fine day from her older sister – this is what I call ‘living knowledge’, passed on directly from one human being to another.
Without an iPad to entertain her, she has to create her own entertainment. She doesn’t need books or amusement arcade either – the world provides plenty to engage her and grow her.
Not giving a child an iPad means that parents have to work harder, because you have to be present for your child. But it is a very enjoyable journey when you discover and explore with your children and see the world through their eyes. We have certainly learned a lot from this sixteen year old though we are exhausted sometimes as she takes us along on her exciting, quirky and philosophical mind-journeys.