Two months ago I scoffed at the idea of getting any i-devices for children in early elementary school. Why would a seven year old need an iPod Touch?
But then it donned on me. Principessa plays games (educational ones mostly) on my iPhone and my iPad. She loves listening to music in the car and at home. And frankly, at her age, I had a record player. And the idea of getting a music playing device that only plays music in this day and age, seems……well….antiquated. Plus, knowing that we are going on a road trip to go skiing during winter break and that we will be traveling for a month next summer in Italy, with plenty of long car rides, a good show or movie for her to watch along the way could be good for everyone’s sanity.
So we did it. We bought a 8gb iPod Touch to give as our “big” Hanukkah gift for our seven year old daughter.
But buying an iPod device that has wireless, internet, messaging, Facetime, and who knows what else means that there is parental prep work necessary. It means that it is my job as a parent make sure it is safe for my child. It means that as a parent, I had to make choices about what to enable, what to disable, and what to use as a teachable moment. It means setting parameters for buying apps, music, and videos.
Enabling & Disabling
One of the things to think about is what kind of access you want to give your child to things like Safari, You Tube, the App Store, wireless, or Facetime.
What I disabled:
I knew that I wanted to disable You Tube right away because for now, I think that is one media outlet that can wait.
I disabled the App Store and iTunes because her iPod Touch will be synched via my iTunes account for now, so any App store shopping, will be done together. I also see it as teachable moment to help Principessa learn to be responsible and discerning in the online world. We are also going to keep track of money that she has to spend, how much she has spent, and how much she needs to save to buy new music, apps, or videos.
I disabled Safari because as far as internet goes, she can use her computer for now, another thing we do together.
What I enabled:
I am keeping Facetime enabled for now, along with wireless, because she can communicate with both myself and her dad between her iTouch and our iPhones when one of us is traveling.
I am keeping videos because part of our rationale in getting the device was that while traveling, she can use it to watch a movie or show. Also, since the iPod Touch has a camera with video capability, she can start recording her own videos.
I kept the clock and set it to show three different clocks: our EST time, Moscow, and Rome. This way she can see what time it is when her dad is traveling to Russia and later when we spend the summer in Italy, she can note the difference in time.
I also set up a password that she has to use every time she turns the device on, or if it has been asleep for more than twenty minutes. Although I have not done this on my own devices, I have heard enough stories of lost or stolen devices, that it was a simple way to help her keep her device (and data) safe.
Then come the Apps, the Music, and the Video
I set up several apps for Principessa before giving it to her so that she had something to start with. All of the apps were things that she already used on my phone or iPad, things like: Hangman, Lets Tans Deluxe, Rush Hour, Colouroku, Math Bingo, and Angry Birds. I also added music that she loves from my playlists like the soundtracks to Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera, Mamma Mia, and Tangled.
Together we spent time looking at music and movie choices on iTunes, talking about our upcoming road trip to go skiing and how she might be using the device. She decided that she wanted to use her first allotment of money (this one was on me, but in the future, she will use her own money that she has saved) to buy two movies. It was helpful for her to see how much space the movies took up since she only has an 8GB device to understand that she cannot keep endless titles on her device at the same time.
The Best Part?
Is that although yes, she played Angry Birds and Hangman….she also spent an hour putting family birthdays and upcoming events into her calendar, started writing lists on the memo pad, and explored using the camera to take pictures of things around her.
It is hard for me to disallow time on her gadget when she is writing or being creative, but we will undoubtedly spend the next few weeks finding an arrangement that is appropriate and balanced as far as “gadget” time goes. But for now? I could not be happier with our choice to buy the device, despite my prior opinions. It also helps that Principessa also received a Hexbug construction set and two different sets of Legos for Hanukkah, and literally came home off the bus last week running to work on her Hexbug track.
What about you? What do you think about kids and gadgets?