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Raising Mini-Addicts

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Four years ago, almost to the week, I gave birth to my first child, a daughter. Eighteen short months later, her little brother joined us and I found myself with two small eyes watching everything I did.

(No, really, they do. Don't believe me? Try to shave your bikini line with two small children in the general vicinity. It won't be long until you hear shouts of "What are you doing?!?")

I think like most other breeders, I believe I'm trying to do the best for my kids. I want them to be happy, well-rounded kids. I want them to hopefully have good lives, whatever they deem that to be.

I have to say I'm a little concerned about what I'm up against. A couple weekends ago, we went to a birthday party where a 4-year-old had her very own computer situated on a kid-sized table. Surrounding the computer were a variety of computer games for her use.

My jaw dropped to the floor. A computer? For a 4-year-old? Are you serious? The most my children know about computer is that sometimes we let our daughter use the paint function and that there are both photos and videos on it.

They are never allowed to touch the computer without our direct consent.

We are raising a generation of children who have access to technological gadgets at increasingly young ages. I've seen pre-kindergarteners with iPods, elementary school aged children with cell phones, pre-teens texting--the list goes on and on.

But have we stopped to think about what the consequences are for our children who are growing up in such a technologically-advanced age?

Two Spanish children, ages 12 and 13, have been admitted to a psychiatric hospital for cell phone addictions. According to the article linked, the two teens were unable to go about their daily lives without cell phones, going so far as to lie to relatives to get money for the phones.

Doctors quoted said the parents had done little to curb their phone use before realizing just how far it had gone. So, let me get this straight. These two children, because that's what they are, had free-range on their phones? They could call and text whenever they wanted and their parents were surprised at the results?

Did they ever consider disconnecting these phones?

We are raising a generation of children who can't go about their daily lives without all these technological gadgets. While it is easy to think these things are harmless, we don't know the full ramifications of their use just yet. Only when these children who are raised with the gadgets become adults will we see how they turn out.

I'm constantly amazed at the websites aimed at children my daughter's age. I get emails about them from time to time, inviting my child online to do "crafts" or "play games" with her favorite characters. All the major networks aimed at children have sections for kids and it scares me to death.

I haven't made any set "rules" regarding these devices and my children just yet. They're still young and haven't shown any interest in playing on the computer or getting an iPod (thankfully). I'm not dim; I realize the day will come that they'll wonder what else is on the computer besides paintbrush.

When that happens, you can bet that I won't be giving them a free for all on a computer or with a different gadget. I want them to learn to use these items in moderation while still enjoying the non-technical side of life.

Phones and computers do have places in our lives, and it isn't at the top of an altar for them to worship.