I read this article recently: Toddlers become so addicted to iPads they require therapy. I confess that my initial reaction was alarm. Oh no! Are my children addicted to the iPad??! Will I have to fork out thousands of dollars to pay for their therapy because of my faulty parenting choices? Yeah. I panicked. I think every parent does when it comes to their children. We’re afraid when we’re not doing enough and we’re afraid when we’re doing too much. We’re always afraid we’re doing the wrong thing because we’re secretly afraid we are bad parents.
Eventually, rational thought returned and now I find the article laughable. I would have discarded further thought about it from my head except for the fact that I am annoyed by the dramatisation of it all. It’s almost like Aristotle telling me he “almost died” because he was so hungry. In the article, it was stated:
Children as young as four are becoming so addicted to smartphones and iPads that they require psychological treatment…
…Experts have warned that parents who allow babies and toddlers to access tablet computers for several hours a day are in danger of causing “dangerous” long term effects.
The youngest known patient being treated in the UK is a four-year-old girl from the South East.
Her parents enrolled her for compulsive behaviour therapy after she became increasingly “distressed and inconsolable” when the iPad was taken away from her.
Okay, addiction therapy for a toddler? Is this for real? How did a toddler get “addicted” in the first place? Children always want what they desire. It doesn’t have to be a smart device. It can be a toy in a toy shop, a certain snack, a particular book, a TV program… And since they’re just children, isn’t it up to the parents to decide whether their children are allowed to have them or not?
Let’s use an example we’re all familiar with… ice cream (or lolly, or chocolate, or whatever treat it is that your child really loves). My kids ask for it all the time. They love the stuff. When I deny them the chance to have some, you bet they get upset. Especially Hercules. He throws a right old tanty that can be heard half-way across the continent. Yeah, I think he’s addicted to ice cream. I’d better get him an appointment for therapy because this is going to ruin his life if I don’t put a stop to it now.
Oh, but wait… how did he get addicted to ice cream in the first place? What is he, like 3? So surely he couldn’t just pop down to the local supermarket and buy it? Maybe it was because I gave it to him? If I was really concerned that he was eating too much ice cream, shouldn’t I put a stop to it? Like, maybe not buying it for him? Now there’s an idea. We just saved ourselves thousands of dollars on ice cream addiction therapy!
Here’s another example… Bed time. My kids hate going to sleep. They never think they’re tired even when they need toothpicks to keep their eyes open. Knowledgeable adults know something that kids don’t know (or rather won’t acknowledge) – that children need their rest so they can grow and consolidate what they learned during the day. Sleep is very important so even if they don’t want to sleep, we have to enforce it because we can’t let them stay up all hours until they collapse into a heap from fatigue.
We’re the parents. We should be in control of the access our toddlers have to all things. If we deem it excessive, we stop it or reduce it to a level we are comfortable with. If I were really concerned that my kids were having too much screen time, I just put them in detox. Problem solved. One of the easiest ways to get my kids off a screen is to offer to play with them because they never turn down an offer to play with me. An older child might not think it’s cool but young children love spending time with their parents.
As for the reaction to having the iPad removed… By this definition alone, Hercules is also addicted to the iThing. He gets “distressed and inconsolable” when his devices are taken away from him. But hang on… he’s a toddler. He gets distressed if you take anything away from him – the chess set, his brother’s colour pencils, Daddy’s watch, and I could go on and on. It doesn’t have to be a device. In fact, I’m pretty sure it would be called having a “toddler tantrum”. He gets toddler tantrums all the time – having to shower, getting out of the shower, getting dressed, getting out of the house, waiting for dinner, not being allowed to eat crackers just before dinner time… again, I could go on and on. It a normal part of his development – his increasing desire for autonomy.
“But my daughter is always asking for the iPad…” Of course she is. It’s fun to play with. Hercules is constantly asking to play with the iPad. He is also constantly asking me to let him paint, or to let him play with play doh, or to watch a specific program on TV, or to listen to his Signing Time songs – whatever happens to be his biggest fancy at the time. In school, he’s always asking his teachers to let him “play sandcastles” in the sand pit.
If you give your child real choices, he will choose the thing the wants most. It won’t necessarily be the iPad. If I offer Hercules the chance to play at a jungle gym, he will happily discard his iPad. If I offer Aristotle a book he’s been hankering to read, he will also drop the iPad.
So if you ask me what I think about toddlers being addicted to smart devices, I think it’s a whole lot of hogwash.