Addiction to the iPad

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines addiction as:

“ a compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance (as heroin, nicotine, or alcohol) characterized by tolerance and by well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal; broadly : persistent compulsive use of a substance known by the user to be harmful.”

My almost 5 year old does not have a compulsive need for heroin and doesn’t experience with drawl symptoms as one would imagine (like night sweats or the shakes) but he definitely has an addiction.  To the iPad.

Is the substance known to be harmful to the user?  According to most experts who flood our screens, yes!

As usual I find myself balancing on the fence post.  Not quite sure where I come down on this one.  Back when I was a better mom before I had kids, I said that my children would never watch t.v.  That’s before I went days without sleep and even longer without a shower and then Baby Einstein came into my life like a angel sent from the heavens.  The fireworks, puppets and bubbles would transfix my babies with its hypnotic ability.

Since then there’s been a steady stream of Treehouse characters in our home from Ming-Ming, Iggle Piggle, Bob and Thomas.  All them at one time or another were charged with keeping my boys entertained for the twenty minutes it took me to get dinner from the stove to the plate.  Now my family room is flooded with the noise of shrieking tweens and toilet jokes and I find myself longing for a return to the sing-song musical love-ins of yesteryear.

Television viewing at our home has always come with parameters: not before school, only after homework and it goes off when I say so.

But then another vice entered our life.  The iPad.

My oldest son has been known to enjoy a game or two of Joy Ride Jetpack and my littlest occasionally screams for Peek-a-Boo Barn but my middle one . . . he shows all of the signs of a full-blown addict.  And he’s not the only one.  David Pogue of The New York Times wrote about his son’s addiction with the iPad back in February 2011 and received almost one thousand comments.

It’s amazing to me to watch my son navigate apps with finesse and skill that far surpass my own.  I see him developing a genuine interest for how the games work, how to display our family photos and search for music.  Where his brother finds relaxation and inspiration in art projects he finds the same benefits searching for Waldo and playing Letter Buddies.

But limits are needed.  I imagine that even Mark Zuckerberg’s mother told him to put down his computer and get out of the house (after seeing The Social Network, maybe not??).

A friend of mine has a one charge per week rule.  The iPad gets charged once a week and when the charge is done, it’s done.  I imagine that could work in theory but it would also require cooperation (and most likely a few busted lips) between the brothers.

We are testing out iPad free week.  The weekdays it rests on the shelf, gathering its strength for the weekend.  It’s day three and the puzzle pieces are scattered on the floor and mini-cars zoom underneath the couch.

If this keeps up, I think that I can keep balancing on that fence post.


7 thoughts on “Addiction to the iPad

  1. In theory, in takes 2 1/2 hours to drive to our cottage. But since my youngest son was born it can take up to 7 (our current record). He is two and still the worst car traveller I’ve ever encountered. In general he is never still. Strollers, wagons, car seats, high chairs, anything with a seat belt are a battle. I have different methods of managing/bribing/coping. And then we got an ipad. I confess it is my favourite method of cooperation. It’s power is almost instant. And surprisingly, he’s pretty good with the limits I try to set. I’m not at a point where we could even imagine week-free policies but he’s not allowed to have it at the dinner table or when we have company. I do let him have it in the stroller when I want to go for a run. Grocery shopping is now possible. And the drive home from the cottage is now down to 3 hours. He also doesn’t play games yet. So far it has become his little DJ station. And he shares my taste in music (endless runs of The Imperial March and Moves Like Jabba – Jabba, not Jagger – aside) so I kind of enjoy it. I’m sure there are lots of reasons to limit his (and his brothers) use of it and we do. But as long as they are still building towers and forts, colouring, reading and dancing around the living room to their own hilarious dance parties, I’ll join you on that fence.

    • Yes!!! Isn’t it a saving grace on long car trips? We are going on a trip soon and the first thing I put on the list was the iPad charger.
      Makes me wonder how we used to drive to Florida when we were kids and only had our walkmans until they ran out of batteries. Oh the horror! 🙂

  2. This was a very interesting post. Thank you for sharing your experience. We had the same problem with our 5 year old boy being addicted to the iPad. When we would try to get it back he would throw fits it was totally out of control. My husband found this free app called KidStar. It lets us set play time limits. When playtime is almost up the app prompts our son to return the iPad. If he returns it early he earns 10 stars but if he returns it on time he only earns 2. Stars go towards rewards like going out for ice cream or having a friend sleep over I didn’t think he would care about rewards but he loves this. I read that the app is based in positive psychology. We’ve only been using it for two weeks but it has made a huge difference. Worth checking out for any parent who wants to get their iPad back.

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