Felíz Navidad with an iPad?

My husband asked if I might like an iPad for Christmas. My first reaction was “What would I do with it?” To be honest, I’d rather he gave me a new purse. I know what to do with one of those – you put stuff in it. Best of all, there is no instruction manual required.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t appreciate technology. Salsa Babies® wouldn’t be where it is today without the Internet, and I can no longer teach a class without my iPod. I have to admit, as a busy mom on the go I wouldn’t want to be without my Blackberry either. However, there are some areas where technology frankly scares me, especially where our kids are concerned.

All of these new gadgets and social media outlets are uncharted territory where parenting is concerned. There is no precedent. We can’t look at how our parents raised us as a point of reference. Cell phones weren’t around when I was as a kid, so when my daughter asks when she can have one, I have to stop and think about it.

What is an appropriate age for a cell phone? An email address? A Facebook or Twitter account? We’ve seen adults in positions of power and prestige abuse and misuse these tools, so it seems like a lot of responsibility to place on a child.

We have to consider some very important issues, with privacy and safety at the top of the list. The classic joke in the old days was that if you put a funeral notice in the newspaper you were risking your house being robbed because everyone knew for certain you wouldn’t be home. Well, maybe we shouldn’t be telling our two thousand Facebook “friends” when we’re going on vacation! And if we’re doing this, imagine what our kids are posting without thinking.

People tend to be braver in writing and say things they wouldn’t in person. This can lead to big-time regrets and even escalate to cyber bullying. My goddaughter is a few years older than my kids, so I often look to her parents for advice. Their number one mantra is “Never write anything you wouldn’t want printed on a billboard”. I think kids and even adults don’t always grasp the fact that cyberspace means forever. Once it’s out there, you can’t get it back.

When we were young you could rip up a love note you sent to your first crush. With email, that same note can be forwarded to the entire school in the blink of an eye. And while we can teach our kids to stop and think about what they write, we have to worry about how they behave at all times. Imagine if people had phones with cameras that allowed them to instantaneously post pictures of us to millions of people when we were whooping it up in our teens and early twenties? Scary stuff!

Parents used to debate how much time should be spent watching T.V. Now we need to add video games, Wii, surfing, chatting and texting to the discussion. We don’t want our kids to be isolated and out of step if these are the new social norms, but I do question how this will affect their people skills when interacting face to face.

Never mind time online, it’s also time in their pockets or backpacks that is a concern. I don’t know if a 12-year-old kid should be walking around with a $500 gadget. Do they appreciate what that really means in terms of work hours? Whether it spoils them or not, it makes them a target for being mugged by someone who definitely understands the dollar amount of what they are carrying around.

I may sound like an old fuddy duddy, but I just don’t get it. We are working longer than ever before, yet we’re spending record hours “plugged in” during our supposed downtime. I don’t think we realize the repercussions that are in store for us down the road. We need to stay with the times, but always question and re-evaluate what we believe to be status quo. Sometimes being different from everyone else is the best thing you can teach a kid!

– Jennifer


Archived from December, 2011.

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