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Are Electronics Bad for Children (or Just Annoying?)

My son has never touched a computer, tablet, or smartphone screen.  He doesn't have any toys that have screens or batteries (a toy drill being the only exception).  Other than in the act of bringing it to me or my husband, he has never held a remote, or game controller.

There are a few reasons for these complete oddities in today's world, and I plan to expound on these in the next week or two.

1) Noisy, battery operated toys are annoying, and I don't think they are a positive influence on children's development.  But mostly they are annoying.
2) Electronics are expensive, and my son is three.  I don't have any desire to let a child who can't keep the food in the bowl while stirring play with devices worth hundreds of dollars.
3) Interactive electronics have a very negative impact on the behavior and development of people, particularly small children. 
4) Porn. 



Today I am just going to hit on the first point, which is more opinion than fact based.  I will not be giving any facts, statistics, or research backing up my opinions, because they are mostly just from my own observations.  Point number two is self-explanatory and doesn't need any explaining.  In my next post on the subject I will give evidence supporting point number three, and finally I will write a post (or maybe two depending on length) about what pornography has to do with my preschool aged son using electronics.

My mother did not ban noisy toys, in fact I had an Alphie II (learning "robot") and my baby sister had a Tickle Me Elmo.  I had toys that made noise, lit up, and moved around.  Actually I don't know if I had any that moved around, but I am sure my brother did. 


Other than the Alphie II I don't remember many of the toys I had that made noise.  I will tell you what I do remember: dolls.  Barbie dolls, baby dolls, paper dolls.  You could have taken away all of my other toys and I probably wouldn't have noticed as long as you didn't touch my dolls.  Noisy toys are great attention getters, and probably do an excellent job of teaching very young children cause and effect.  But they are not worth the money, or annoyance, to me.  Please note that I am referring only to toys that make noise at the press of a button, not things like musical instruments, which, while annoying to listen to, are allowed in my house.

Watching and listening to my son play with his toys is precious.  I love when he doesn't notice me (at which point he stops playing and starts explaining what he is doing) and I can listen to him have conversations (or battles) between his action figures.  Listening to him reenact situations that have occurred in real life lend me great insight into what is going on in his mind when things happen.  When he is excited to show me something he has built, or when I hear him singing songs as he builds things, it makes me happy!  Battery operated toys don't really have the same appeal.  It is not adorable to watch my son press a button and hear the electronic voice say "The dog is brown" over and over and over again.  In fact it is downright annoying.  And honestly, a little sad, because they usually have expressionless faces (as I do when I am using electronics). 

I do believe that electronic toys can and do teach children things like colors, numbers, letters, and phonics.  However, I can do that too, with the dual benefits of human interaction and leaving my son to use his imagination during his independent play time. 

Most electronic toys do not engage any gross motor skills, something my son is all to happy to do when playing with many of his toys (did you know if you open the cars on a 1/32 scale car, they look like wings and all of the sudden the car can fly "like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang"?).  A very large majority of electronic toys do not allow for social interaction, which isn't a huge issue since my son is (sort of) an only child, but who wants to see their child sitting by themselves repeatedly pushing a button when they are in a group of peers?  Electronic toys have also been linked to shorter attention spans and tolerance for being bored, which equates to more demands for attention at inopportune times.

Although I have never (as an adult) been a fan of loud, bright, obnoxious toys, I was never particularly adamant about my position until the following events occurred.  These are more related to tablets and interactive screens, but I find the other toys are merely gateways to the more sophisticated toys.

I baby-sat a little girl from the time she was 10 months old until she started Kindergarten.  She was probably the easiest child I ever took care of, smart, obedient, and mature, with a great attention span.  When she was a baby she threw lots of tantrums, mostly over nap time, but after she was probably 2.5 she never threw fits (at least at my house).  One year for Christmas she got a children's tablet.  She brought it over and I let her use it for about half an hour, then told her it was time to do something else.  This child, who had not thrown a fit at me in probably two years, threw a tantrum!  This happened again the next time I let her use it, and after that it stayed in her bag when she came over.

For a few months I watched this little girl's older brothers.  They were quite a bit older, and just needed someplace to be after school when they didn't have sports, and mostly just played video games (I asked their mom what she wanted them to do and she didn't care).  When she would get up from nap, we would give her a controller that wasn't plugged in to "play" with them.  Every single time, when her mom would get here, she would scream that she didn't want to leave and throw a fit.  That only happened a couple of times before I cut that off too.

Different kid:  We were at a friend's house and their son had been playing Angry Birds on his dad's tablet for a LOOOOONG time.  It was new, and he was excited, and since they had company over it was a great distraction, I am quite sure this wasn't an everyday activity.  Eventually the battery was almost dead so his dad took it away.  I have no idea how often this little boy threw tantrums, but he sure did that time! 

All of these situations have led me to believe that electronic toys are addictive to small children.  Something about them is to stimulating or something, and they have a hard time disconnecting.  I don't see any reason to set my children, or myself, up for failure, over something that doesn't have any real benefits.

This post is not meant as a judgment on people (probably most people) that DO let their children use these kinds of toys.  My son uses noisy toys at his friends or cousins houses (although screens are a huge no-no - more on that soon!) and I am okay with that.  I don't think that using them every once in awhile is going to be detrimental to his development.  It is simply an explanation of why WE do things differently.

What are your electronics rules in your house?





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