Who hasn’t seen a harried mom in the grocery checkout hand her phone to her child to quiet them down while she unloads the cart? When you see it, and you have many times, you have to bite your tongue and turn the other way. You can’t count the times you’ve seen moms’ (and dads’!) cell phones hit the floor in that situation. And if it doesn’t connect with the floor, it’s a grimy, sticky mess by the time you get it back. When will they learn?
“I used to give my phone to my daughter and son when we were at doctors’ offices. The thought of them playing with the toys provided there, no matter how clean they looked, terrified me. All I could think was germs, germs, germs. So I’d surrender my phone, and hope for the best,” smiles Tessa Rae, rolling her eyes. “I lost information, got dings when they dropped it, and always got protests when I’d take it back. It was a win-lose situation, with me on the losing end.”
Parents have been loaning their cellphones to their kids for as long as they’ve had them. Savvy parents have been buying their kids their own devices for almost that long. The first flip phone came out in 1989, the same year as Nintendo’s Game Boy. Many parents learned very early on that it was better to police time on Tetris on a Game Boy, which was close to indestructible, than a phone whose screen could be snapped as easily as flipped.
2004 – the Nintendo DS made Dads jealous of the kids-the two screens of the DS, the lower one a touchscreen, and wireless connectivity for play with friends. “When my son would be waiting at his sister’s dance competitions-which would last for three or four 10-hour days -he and kids with their [Nintendo] DS [systems] would make friends and play against each other all weekend. It was great socially, and kept him focused and happy.”
What are parents doing now? Handing over their cells and tablets to little Mr. and Miss Messy Hands, of course. Many have made the choice and bought the kids phones of their own, thinking that phones have games, internet capabilities and phone and text, so why not? But an increasing number of parents are consciously deciding that handheld gaming consoles are better than phones for children, and definitely better than parents’ phones and tablets. Here’s why:
- As long as the kids are with you, they don’t need a phone.
- The range and quality of children’s games for handhelds is incredible.
- Handheld gaming consoles are made for kid-type treatment.
- The screens are bigger and better for gameplay than that of phones, and the units are much easier to manipulate than tablets.
- Gaming is now recognized for all kinds of benefits: it builds resilience, increases optimism, builds stronger social bonds with family and friends, improves cooperation, encourages problem solving, increases the ability to concentrate. You don’t get that by texting emoticons for hours at a time.
- Parental controls are so advanced that worry is passé. The New Nintendo 3DS XL and Nintendo 2DShave parental controls to limit internet access; limit the play of games by content ratings set by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board; restrict the purchase of games and apps; restrict the sharing of photos, video, audio; disable the 3D images of the 3DS to display in just 2D (an option some parents opt for if their children are under 6 years old. The device can easily be switched from 2D to 3D later); restrict online interaction, new friend registration, YouTube content with an age rating of 13 and over; as well as Child Online Privacy Protection. You can even limit how long your child can play.So go ahead, reclaim your tech and let the kids have their own. It’ll teach them responsibility, keep them engaged and happy, and best of all, you’ll have your own toys back!