If kids could learn their ABCs from mummy’s smartphone, communicate with Talking Tom and hone their drawing skills with innumerable doodling apps, could this be far behind? An American firm has unveiled a new gadget at a tech meet called iPotty. Yes, it is very imaginatively named that, lest parents miss the point. iPotty is basically a potty seat with an iPad holder and waterproof cover, which gives the whole game of toilet training a technical spin. Using books to divert your toddler’s attention while you make him stay put long enough to do the job? Or are you still one of those dinosaur-age parents who play games like Pat-a-cake and Peek-a-boo when they wish to engage or distract children?
Well it’s time to come out of the caves clearly. The iPotty promises to be your saviour in this long winded and not very exciting task. I mean how many re-reads of Goldilocks or reruns of "I’m a little teapot" could you do anyway? iPotty would relieve you of the drudgery and entertain the child with games and fun stuff. Who knows, it may even teach your child to identify one to ten before he’s learnt to tell you he has to go to the loo.
Since I’m clearly of the dinosaur variety, I decided to ask some people with kids that age if they’d ever consider an iPad-friendly potty seat. Or if they have ever taken the help of a gizmo or Smartphone app to get their toddlers to do something.
Turns out when it comes to the iPotty, most are dinosaurs like me. Apps are a different matter altogether and depend on the parents’ interest and need and parenting philosophy. A friend with a six month old thinks that in future she would be willing to use an app that makes her life simpler than one that teaches her kid to do things. She’s all praise for the ‘WhatToExpect Log App’ that tracks the time and duration of her son’s feeds and naps.
A cousin adds that while she diligently used the same app in the first few months of her baby’s life (despite her mother’s sniggers), over time, instinct and not the app, is what took over.
Some prefer to stay away. As long as they can. "I always fight these conflicting emotions of practicality, love for the old-world and materialism, where I feel a natural and unobtrusive way of learning that helps the child focus is the best way to develop. Dependency on any gadget can break a child’s focus and may distract her/him," says Bhavana, mom to an energetic toddler. "Mental multitasking is inevitable," she feels, "but why ‘teach’ it?"
No one is saying no either, because there are times when apps and gadgets do make your life comfortable, distract baby and give you that much needed break. It’s better to have a silent baby on a three-hour flight than a cranky one. And no, I’m not going the ‘TV as babysitter’ way. You don’t need to make phones and iPads and electronic devices his only friend. Mix it up with books, a few crayons and paper instead.
In fact, if you Google the topic and read what experts (paediatricians, counselors) have to say, most think that gadgets and apps are interactive and can therefore engage the child and work as excellent learning supplements. However, when it comes to thinking, questioning and encouraging creativity in a child, there are varying opinions, mostly not in favour of too much iExposure!
Most people I know, still seem to teach their children basics like numbers and alphabets the old fashioned way. But as one of them very practically puts it, technology is a part of our lives and it’s going to be incorporated in some way or the other, in our children’s lives too. The question we need to ask ourselves is how soon, how often and for what? Now that is a long thread for another day altogether