The Way We Parent Now: "Give the Baby the Damn iPhone!"

In Sunday's New York Times, the iPhone is called "the most effective tool in human history to mollify a fussy toddler." But this designation is not awarded in an advertisement for the cellular phone, or at least not one Apple paid for. The iPhone is dubbed a "Toy of Choice" for "many one-, two- and three-year-olds," who cannot read and can hardly speak, yet know a thing or two about consumer electronics. It's not all good news -- a few "childhood development specialists" are worried that we're turning children into robots with big AT&T bills.

It is common practice to compare a ridiculous newspaper article with something penned by comedy writers in the satirical periodical The Onion, but sometimes it really is the most apt comparison. Read this and try to remember that it's serious:

"It was like she'd always want the phone," Ms. Sykes said. After a six-hour search one day, she and her husband found the iPhone tucked away under Kelsey's bed. They laughed. But they also felt vague concern. Kelsey, and her two-year-old brother, Chase, have blocks, Legos, bouncing balls, toy cars, and books galore. ("They love books," Ms. Sykes said.) But nothing compares to the iPhone.

More often than not, though, in an article full of anecdotes, it appears more like the age-old tradition of questionable parenting (and spoiled kids) more than anything brought on by the technology takeover. For instance, take dropping off a child at school after he's been watching a YouTube video on the ride over:

Brady wanted to stay in his seat with the iPhone. Finally he put it in his coat pocket and went inside -- where Ms. Hotz was able to surreptitiously reclaim her gizmo and leave for work. But it's not always that easy. "Sometimes I'll need it because someone is calling, and he is not at all willing to give it up," she said.

But speaking of passive parenting, it turns out that the iPhone is just like a small television:

Dr. Gwenn Schurgin O'Keeffe, a pediatrician who is a member of the academy's council of communications and media, said the group is continually reassessing its guidelines to address new forms of "screen time."

"We always try to throw in the latest technology, but the cellphone industry is becoming so complex that we always come back to the table and wonder should we have a specific guideline for cellphones," she said. But, she added, "At the moment, we seem to feel it's the same as TV."

Some parents, though, claim the iPhone has helped accelerate reading and spelling skills. Apparently parenting message boards, like the "often contentious" UrbanBaby.com, are in a frenzy with debate:

"We don't let our toddler touch our iPhones ... it takes away from creative play."

"Please ... just say no. It is not too hard to distract a toddler with, say ... a book."

There were always the kids who grew up with chapter books and NPR, and as they aged, they could condescend to the kids who had The Simpsons instead. But how far are those little nerds in Angry Birds? That's what I thought.

Toddlers' Favorite Toy: The iPhone [NYT]

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