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Hecker is a first-year magazines and writing double major and can be contacted at emily.hecker@drake.edu

Thrust into a field setting known as Jordan Creek Town Center, I glimpsed at the natives’ children. There they were in their red mall-issued strollers thoroughly engrossed by the toys they held in their hands. Much to my surprise, these toys were not animals from Build-a-Bear nor were they books à la Barnes & Noble. In fact, they were something I had never seen someone under the age of 10 play with before.

Behold! I present to you the latest toy for small children: cell phones. Yes, it’s true. Gone are the days of our distant youths when trains, dolls and teddies were the playthings of choice. Gone are the days when parents would carry large totes filled with things to keep their children entertained at every moment of the day. Now, slap a cell phone in your tot’s hands, and they’ll be satisfied for hours.

My question is, what exactly are the children doing on the phones? Are they texting their buddies from the sandbox preparing their next play date? Perhaps they’re updating their Facebook statuses. If something exciting, like the completion of potty training, occurred, I can see that these children would need a cell phone to share that exciting news.

However, should cell phones really be used as an alternative toy for young children? Sure, they’re shiny, pretty and have games on them (that is why we adults like them), but they’re not exactly suited for children, in my opinion. One drop from the stroller and it’s bye-bye smart phone. Drop teddy from the stroller and you pick him up, dust him off and put him back into little Billy or Becky’s arms. Children’s toys are designed for children. Cell phones are not. Is there really something so wrong with providing children with playthings geared toward them?

Growing up with Barbies, stuffed animals and Fisher Price, I never had any qualms with my playthings. Of course, cell phones were not exactly an option during my youth. At the time, they were heavy boxes with a massive antenna. I’m not sure I could have lifted one back then, let alone played with it. Then again, my parents would never have considered letting me get my tiny hands on anything that wasn’t fully childproof.

Just as today’s toys have changed, so have today’s parents. While the children play with cell phones, so do their parents. Today’s typical family outing involves everyone staring at his or her phones and ignoring one another. I don’t know how many times I’ve observed parents scrolling away on their little Androids, completely oblivious to their children. Now that’s quality family time.

Perhaps the cell phones could be put away, especially the ones given to the children. Is it really so challenging for a parent to be engaged with his or her children while he or she is out and about? Instead of handing a cell phone to a child, why not play a healthy game of I Spy or something? The children have something to do, and they are getting quality time with their parents.

Not to sound cliché or anything, but childhood is short. When both the parents and the children are tuned out on their phones, childhood will zip by before they even surface. To all you future parents out there, I challenge you to actually interact with your children. Raise them to be engaged, upstanding citizens like you. If you’re not careful, they may grow up without any real social skills. Think about that, mall parents.

1 Comment

  1. Kathy N March 1, 2012

    Wonderful written article Ms. Hecker! I hope ALL of today’s parents will be reading it. I really am wondering what life will be like in 10 years from now…if we aren’t careful on all the latest and greatest in technology, there definitely won’t be the American family anymore sitting around the kitchen table talking verbally about their day, or any physical activity playing out in the yard as a family. Keep up the good work, Ms. Hecker, I look forward to reading more of your articles!

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