Monday, 24 February 2014

A boy and an iPad: a love story

Take a look around you and it can seem that every member of the human race has their eyeballs glued to a little handheld screen.  Smartphone, iPad, whatever - we're hooked.  I gave my husband an iPhone for Christmas 3 years ago and haven't seen his eyes since.  

So baby comes along and from day one, we're all shoving these little gizmos in his face to snap his photo, playing with them while he's taking ages to feed and talking on them when he wants attention.  It's really no wonder he's fascinated.  Plus, these touch screens and apps are super simple and easy, he takes to it like a fish in water.  

We try to keep it rationed out and educational, but despite us stocking up on drawing apps, ABC apps, telling time apps, learning words apps, it still usually degenerates into something to keep his little hands busy while he his eyes turn square and he catches flies through too much mouth-breathing.  It's just s reflection of us all as we all like to believe that our smartphone use is important and useful when actually it's just a seductive time-waster usually.   

The other night, we were playing the telling time app.  If you tell the time correctly 3 times, you get a star.  5 stars and you get a fish that swims in your own little aquarium that you can feed with virtual fish food.  Fun.  Problem is Ethan is of course too young to understand the clock.  He likes to parrot back the numbers '2, 1, 8' and copy words, but he wouldn't stand a chance of getting a full fish tank on his own.  

Enter Daddy.  Thom often helps him move the hands of the clock and tries to get more stars and fish.  This evening, as Ethan's attention begins to wane from telling time, he climbs over to me for a story and a snuggle and some good fort-making by the sofa with a blanket.  Thom is on a roll though and keeps playing the app.  Whizzing through without the interruption of Ethan's sticky little fingers, Thom gets one fish, showing Ethan who is delighted.  Ethan gives the fish some fish food and returns to our playtime.  Minutes later, Dad has another one.  The another.  Each time, Ethan takes a break from our fort or story to have a look. 

But then the greed sets in.  After about the 4th fish, Ethan, dizzy with delight, shouts,'More! More!'  That was all Thom needed and he went off, telling the time like, well, like a grown-up and stocking up on fish.  I noted that even though Ethan was busy playing and forgetting about the iPad, Thom fed every new fish before going back to tell the time some more.  

Then, bath time arrived and Ethan cried and screamed to be dragged away from his virtual fish tank.  Thom had to placate him with the promise of 'one more fish, and then tubby'.  I'm not sure if that was for Ethan or himself.  Those damn fish are a little more than addictive.