Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Why We Let Our Kids Play on Electronic Devices

Original photo credit:iMore.com

We have more personal electronic devices than anyone I know, and we often get accosted about the fact that our children play on an iPad or iPod. People love to judge. They love to tell you how you're doing things wrong, or poorly. We have gotten more flack about iPods from people in our lives than almost anything else.

Now I am very aware that too much screen time is bad for kids. I know that they need different levels and types of stimulation as well as time with little to no stimulation. We make sure that the children have designated "No iPod time", that they go outside, run around, play games, read books, be creative, etc.

When I was growing up, me and every other person of my generation, sat around in the mornings and evenings watching television. In our house, iPods have replaced the t.v. I could not turn it on for weeks and they wouldn't be too bothered by it.

The iPod/iPad are great tools for children to learn in an environment which they thrive in, as well as being easily accessible, fun, and custom to each child. The other children spend considerably less time on any devices, but little man, he'd be pleased if he never had to do anything again except rock out his device.

When he was really little, before his diagnosis, it served as a distraction. In hindsight, I now understand that he was using the self controlled sensory input to block all of the uncontrollable. He still uses it for that purpose. If we are out somewhere difficult for him, like say the grocery store, and he begins to become overwhelmed, he sits down in the cart and borrows my husband's phone and is then capable of getting through the rest of the trip. We have even successfully had three trips to the movie theatre with an accessible phone or iPod for him, which is something he wanted to do so badly. He watches the movie, and inevitably part way through he starts to get restless, a bit panicky, and has a hard time blocking out the intense sounds and flashing screen. The first time, I though for sure we were done. It was a trial, he really wanted to give it a go, we did, but as expected, 20 minutes into the movie, and we were going to be heading home. He on the other hand, would not be defeated so easily, he asked for my phone, I told him the sound had to stay off, and we turned the brightness down as far as it would go, and he used it for about ten minutes before turning it off and returning his focus to the movie. I was so proud of him. He used a familiar tool that was available to him, to allow himself the necessary time and distraction to finish something hard for him. Way to go little man! If we hadn't had that option in place for him, he may not have been able to see it through.

There is also the learning factor. Absolutely NOTHING can teach that child something as fast and proficiently as the games on the iPod. I have sat with him countless times, trying to obtain his focus and interest long enough to teach him things, like the alphabet, colours, letters, numbers, shapes, written words, etc, and he shuts down. Once he has learned something, he loves to talk to me about it, but taking in new information, while trying to interact (even with his mama) is just too much. I download him a game about phonics, and within two days, he's telling me what sounds the letters make. Why do you think autistic children in schools are getting their own iPads now? It makes sense, why wouldn't you offer them a learning tool that is less stressful for them and is successful time and time again.

Now we don't let them play all the time, and we don't let them waste the opportunity playing mindless games, to just pass time. This is a tool for us. It allows them time to themselves, while offering us (the folks) a great way to teach something new.

Little man is a numbers guy, and 75% of the time, he's just got a calculator on the screen, punching in number sequences, spouting off times tables, and doing a whole lot of linear thinking ;)
When he's not on the calculator, he's playing a math game, listening to music, or watching youtube songs about numbers. It just so happens that one device does all of these things. But to the nosey onlookers, they see your kid with a device in his hand, again, and assume that you aren't doing right by them. They assume that you let them play video games all day and don't parent them. Little do they know that you are choosing to provide a sensory tool, learning tool, art tool, calculating music player...
Why wouldn't you? Yes, shove them outside to play, engage in meaningful conversation, do group activities and outings, read books, do it all! For us though, part of doing it all is letting them have the devices sometimes too. Who cares what people say. That nosey stranger at the grocery store doesn't know your child, that opinionated relative doesn't walk in your shoes. Don't ever hop in the backseat when it comes to your parenting, and you'll do alright. They're learning and happy. WIN!

P.S I am not affiliated in any way with apple, this is just what we have and what our children use.