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My Touchscreen Generation Kid

Posted by Dr. Claire McCarthy  April 10, 2013 12:48 PM

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When the Easter Bunny didn't bring him an iPad (a significant disappointment), my first-grader decided to use his writing time at school for Plan B: begging me and my husband.

liam ipad letter.jpgDear Mom and Dad, he wrote. I want an iPad. We can bring it on trips (not that we actually go on many trips, but whatever). I will pay the cents (and we will pay the dollars?). I will charge it. It can be at home, a othr houses, in the car and othr plases. I will take good care of it. Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeees.

Fifteen e's in please--clearly, he's serious.

It's easy to roll your eyes at this kind of thing. Kids these days--they just want the latest, coolest technology. They should go outside and play instead. Or read books.

But if you watch Liam play with my iPad, it's easy to see why he loves it. He bangs out songs on drums or piano keys, does puzzles, draws pictures, plays spelling games, flies airplanes...he moves in and out of the different apps, completely captivated.

Yeah, I want him to read books and play outside--which is why I make sure he does both. But I like that he has touchscreen time. It is giving him something that my older, non-touchscreen generation kids didn't have.

For Liam, everything is 3D. Content has depth; whether it's just links, or that it can be manipulated, picked up and looked at different way, he sees the page and the word and the world in a way that is fascinating to me. Nothing is just there; there is always more you can do with it, always a different way you can think about it. I think that it makes him more creative, more willing to look at things differently, more empowered.

And for Liam, every day (sometimes every moment) is full of questions that can and should be answered. He doesn't understand why anyone would let a question linger, when there is an iPad or a smartphone nearby. "Look it up!" he'll demand, and we do--and we read and look at pictures and videos. Which inevitably leads to more questions and things to look up--and then to trips to museums and battleships and ponds. For Liam, life is about exploring and learning.

These are the gifts of growing up with the Internet and touch screens. Yes, we need to be careful and thoughtful and monitor what our kids do (the Common Sense Media website is a great resource), as we should do with all aspects of our kids' lives, not just media. But these are tremendous tools for our children, with so many possibilities.

I don't know that Liam will get an iPad just yet, though. But maybe if he asks Santa Claus instead of the Easter Bunny...
This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
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About MD Mama

Claire McCarthy, M.D., is a pediatrician and Medical Communications Editor at Boston Children's Hospital . An assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and a senior editor for Harvard More »

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