You know the people who wake up at the crack of dawn to go wait in line for hours and hours at an Apple Store to get the latest iThing? They read all the articles speculating about all the features of the iThing. They own every other iThing there is to own. They proselytize to their families, like lunatics on the subway, trying to convert them to i-ism. And an angel appeared and said thusly: There is an app for that.
My husband and I are those people. When the first iPhone came out, we had been dating for a few months. We got them on the first day. The first commitment we made to each other was a solemn pledge to join together in phone-plan matrimony. We eloped a few months later. With the exception of one time when we were traveling, we have gotten every iThing on the first day.
We refer to Steve Jobs as Uncle Steve.
Despite rumors that nerds like us never get laid, we managed to produce a child (with a handy ovulation app). When that child was only five months old, the iPad 2 came out. I was at a crossroads. Do I skip out on the nerdy high of waiting in line and opening the box as soon as humanly possible and send my husband alone? My mother (a non-believer) wouldn’t call in sick from work to babysit Adi for me. So, after much deliberation, I did what any sane parent would do. I grabbed a diaper bag, a nursing cover, and a tummy time mat, and plopped myself (and Adi) on an Apple Store line. Five and a half hours later, an iMan came up the iLine distributing tickets for the remaining iPads. He jokingly asked Adi in a baby voice if she wanted one too. I said yes. He looked at me. I looked at him. My husband was looking at the picture he took of his iTicket on his iPhone and not paying attention. And that’s how Adi got her first iPad.
Adi is a digital child. She has every Dr. Seuss book on her iPad. She has apps that help teach her everything from the alphabet to the periodic table to zoology. Bedtime stories are read from an iPad (instead of a dead tree). Long car trips rarely result in boredom-induced tantrums because of interactive Sesame Street apps. Some people (Scientologists call them SPs) have told me that I’m causing Adi to live in a world that doesn’t exist… that Adi is detached from reality. I’m doing a disservice to my child. I couldn’t disagree more. Technology isn’t taking away from Adi’s world, it’s enhancing it.
We bought an animal app for Adi. It teaches animal sounds and habitats and diet and things like that. The first time we went to the Bronx zoo after playing with the app, Adi was excited, and engaged, and informed. When she saw a giraffe, just like the giraffe she got to know in the app, she was literally star struck. For her it was like seeing a celebrity. She pointed at every animal she saw, named it, made the sound it makes, told me what it eats, and said where it lived. When Adi met my pet snake for the first time she wasn’t afraid because she already knew about snakes. She watched my snake eat a rat and didn’t even flinch, because snakes eating rats was already old news.
Yes, we have imposed screen time limits. I also know every app on Adi’s iPad, and make sure everything is age appropriate. Adi goes outside, interacts with other kids, plays with legos, and has a ‘meatspace’ hobby of painting (with real paint on real canvas on a real easel). Adi paints every day. The reason she’s so into her real painting is because she had a painting app.
Adi has a natural curiosity and asks me more questions than I know the answers to.
“Mommy, name of tree?”
“I don’t know Adi, lets find out.”
Then I whip out my leaf-identifying app and Adi and I learn the name and a ton of facts about the tree.
Adi knows more than I did at two. I think she knows more than the average two year old. She’s too young to read, but she’s not too young to learn. Her iPad helps her learn. Sometimes at brunch Mike and I will “read the newspaper” on our iPads, and Adi will “draw” on hers. We get dirty looks from people walking by. Sometimes we’ll even get a lecture. I’ll usually point to another family doing the ‘analog’ version of what we’re doing. I’ll then tell that person to shove his/her digital prejudice up her USB port and leave my iFamily alone.
I would also like to mention that my midwife said that my blood pressure during labor went down when I played Angry Birds and tweeted during contractions. And this was on Pitocin. I didn’t have to Lamaze myself into a hyperventilated tizzy, or focus on a teddy bear. I just had to sit on my birth ball and shoot birds at pigs. iLabor.
Technology has a bad reputation when it comes to kids. Everyone is afraid that their kids are going to turn into mindless couch potatoes (for the record, we don’t own a television; everything we watch is streamed online). If done mindfully however, I think the inevitable digitalization of our lives and our children’s lives will be an improvement. I remember when Internet access meant slow loading times, funny noises, and your phone having a busy signal. I remember when there was no internet in the house at all. Adi was born with the entirety of human knowledge in a rectangle on her lap. She’s lucky. All children should have access to this. When all children do, I think this world will be a better place.
I’m an iMom, with an iChild and I’m very iHappy.
Rachel Figueroa-Levin is a soapmaker, cofounder and educator at Urban Babywearing, a hyperlocal Inwood blogger and organizer, a political/life/religion/parenting satirist, and all around trouble maker. She is also the creator of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Spanish-speaking alter ego @elbloombito. You can reach her via twitter @Jewyorican.