Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The iPhone: The latest toy of choice!

Fiona watching the trailer for Despicable Me! on her mom's iPhone.
An article in the New York Times called the iPhone "the most effective tool in human history to mollify a fussy toddler."

Reportedly, one of the first words uttered by many of our youngest generation is "iPhone!" This may be overstating the case. "Da!" and a waving hand with finger pointing at the popular Apple device may be more accurate.

"Play the video again. Please."
For many children, such as my little granddaughter, the iPhone has become the toy of choice. She would sit and watch video trailers on YouTube, such as Despicable Me, for hours if I allowed it; I don't. The screen tapping and finger sliding actions that control an iPhone all mesh perfectly with Fiona's developing motor skills.

The phones have proven to be amazingly rugged --- standing up well to being dropped by enthusiastic little techno geeks. Of course, when one stands only about two feet tall a phone does not have far to fall.

On reading the following, I said "Been there and done that":

One mother recalls the first time her daughter, barely 2 years old, held her husband's iPhone. "She pressed the button and it lit up. I just remember her eyes. It was like 'Whoa!' "

Our daughter Ashley, Fiona's mom, shot a video on her iPhone of Judy and I departing on our recent extended vacation. While we were gone, Ashley played the iPhone video for Fiona who giggled when we waved to her from the screen. Soon the little girl was waving back. Returning, after almost six weeks away, we were greeted with a waving welcome from our laughing granddaughter. There was no playing strange.

Software developers understand the attraction of the iPhone to the very young and have released apps designed for little children but marketed to parents. These "educational" apps may be as simple as electronic flash cards teaching reading and spelling.

Other apps are as new and different as the iPhone itself. Pocket Zoo streams live video of animals from zoos around the world. iGo Potty, sponsored by Huggies Pull-Ups training pants from Kimberly-Clark, rings parents reminding them when it's "Potty Time." The app comes complete with "Fun Stuff" for children.

All this interest in iPhones by young kids is not without detractors. Many pediatricians see the phones as similar to television and suggest the same guidelines. The American Academy of Pediatrics has long advised parents not to allow children to watch any TV until after their second birthday.

Many question whether electronic flash cards are a good way to teach language. Rather than handing a child an iPhone, perhaps it would be better to simply spend more time talking directly to the child.

I don't know. I'll bet after Johannes Gutenberg began pumping out children's books, maybe early versions of The Cat in the Hat, parents of young children were probably warned by psychologists of the time that books were not a good way to teach children anything. It would be better to simply spend more time with your kids, I am sure they were told. So, forget those new fangled book things was the word on the street back in 1440.

But maybe it is not an either/or situation. No one is going to argue that children do not need interaction with the people in their young lives. Of course, they do. But electronic devices are going to play a big part in their futures, possibly a little interaction with an iPhone can be a good thing.

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