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iXL Smart Device Targets Toddlers

In a recent blog I confessed I’m an old fashioned fuddy-duddy. It should then come as no shock I’m about to be a scrooge concerning a product I just read Fisher-Price targeted at your toddlers this Christmas, the iXL. As a disclaimer I have never seen this device in person and my opinion is simply based upon what I read on Fisher-Price’s own website concerning this kids “toy”.

Their promotional material [on fisher-price.com] says, “These days, even preschoolers want cool digital devices. Wait ’til they get their hands on iXL—the learning, entertainment and media center just for kids. Like them, it’s small but powerful. Full of creative fun. And very, very smart. It flips open and turns from a book to a game player and so much more—it’s like having six digital devices in one!”

Now I don’t doubt they are correct about our kids seeing us on our iPhones, laptops and other devices and wanting to play with one, too. I also know many want to eat donuts, candy and potato chips at breakfast, lunch and dinner. That doesn’t mean we let them. Sure kids need to learn about technology at some point in order to be competitive, but are the toddler years when their little brains are still forming the right time?

I worry giving too much access to TV, computers and other such devices at an early age might literally rewire their little brains. I’m no neuroscientist, but this really worries me. Am I alone? I don’t mean to pick on Fisher Price… well, in this case I do… but they make plenty of cool gifts that let kids use their imaginations and play like… well, like kids and not like little adults. They grow up too fast already.

Is it just me or are we introducing technology to our toddlers too soon? Could there be a developmental impact? Wouldn’t they be better off playing outside on a nice day? Maybe mom or dad could run along side them as they ride a bike for the first time  or camp out together in the back yard overnight in sleeping bags – flashlights being the only battery operated devices present. What’s wrong with crayons and paper?

Am I just a grumpy old fuddy-duddy or do you see a potential problem with this as well? To be clear, I’m inviting dissent. Tell me I’m wrong… tell me I’m right… tell me to get off my high-horse and post another cute photo of my daughter… just tell me something. Oh, and “hitting” the “like” button below does not mean you necessarily agree. 😉 I know you’re there… I can hear you breathing.

18 comments

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  1. Merry120

    I agree with you that there may be long term issues that we don’t know. Unfortunately I don’t practice avoidance of the things I worry about. My little guy, Evan, is 3 and he has a Leapster and he often plays games on my iPod Touch. I have two stepchildren who are older who also have iPods so Evan sees others on technology devices all the time. I chose not to fight the fight to keep him away from it. I do draw definite boundaries around what he is allowed to play or to watch. Is it the right decision….maybe not but I pick my battles and this wasn’t one I picked. (So that I don’t look like a totally horrible parent…..Evan does not watch TV during the day or play games. He does get a bit of computer or TV time after I get home from work before bed).

    1. Michael Schmid

      Hi, Merry. Thank you so much for your comment. I certainly never meant for good parents like you to in anyway beat yourself up over your choices. You do draw definite boundaries around what your 3 year old is allowed to play or to watch. My fear is that other less involved parents will use these devices as babysitters, much as TVs have been used for decades. And as you say, what if it does have some effect on their little brains about which we don’t yet know. I fully admit that I don’t know, but logic says this type of input is vastly different from what kids for the past 10,000 years have dealt with, and our brains were not really made for it… especially when they are in those early developmental years. Please note: the next post (by someone more knowledgeable than me) suggests I’m being an old fuddy-duddy (well, not in those words… she’s too nice), but basically that I’m worrying to much, and kids brains can handle it… especially if their parents monitor them and help them unhook (as we all need to ourselves) from technology frequently.

  2. Danielle

    Well I’m not a parent so I always preface my opinions with :This may very well change in the future and I reserve the right to change my mind:)

    But here’s what I’m thinking
    as far as neural plasticity (or the flexibility of a kids’ mind to absorb and learn new things) from what I understand in my few neurology/neuroanatomy classes, a childs brain is MOST plastic during the first five years.. they’re able to absorb significantly more information (especially speech and language) during this time at a faster rate than any other time in their lives. They’re learning to connect the many synapses from ‘oh this is a turkey’ to ‘turkey is a food that Aunt Kath is cooking’ and eventually ‘Aunt Kath =turkey’ :).

    I personally have seen these type of leapfrog and toys be TREMENDously helpful when kids or siblings are sitting in our waiting room or doctors offices. Those can be really tough places to be quiet and still and its allowing them to learn new concepts and build fine motor skills as well as educational benefits, not to mention that its much more appropriate for a kid to be playing with their toy than listening to the food channel or CNN that may be running on the waiting room tv station. (oy!).

    Anyway I guess my feeling thus far is technology is an integral part of our lives and just like we as adults need to learn to ‘disconnect and unhook’, we can teach our children that there is a time and a place for computers and video games and there are plenty of times for other things too!

    That being said my opinions on video games that are violent or cruel is polar opposite. No need to expose my child to guns and violence any earlier than possible. So if the games/activities do not promote educational stimulation or align with the values you find to be important,, well game over. :)
    D

    1. Michael Schmid

      Thanks for weighing in, D! And I very much appreciate a dissenting opinion. Your medical doctorate certainly makes you much more of an expert than my MBA. 😉

      It’s just an instinct thing, and I admit I may very well be wrong, but I worry a departure so dramatically different from the type of input their wee ones’ brains were meant to receive (genetically/evolutionarily speaking) cant help but affect those brains in at least some small way… maybe even in profound ways?

      Perhaps it will affect them in very positive ways that prepare them for the brave new world to come. I’m not sure; I worry it may affect attention spans and imaginative thought… and if replacing health play and interaction with other kids, then in socialization and physical health. I agree as long as parents are doing there job and limiting their use of these devices any harm should be mitigated.

      Except for Batman, Sponge Bob and Scoby Doo, most of the games they offer on the iXL could be described as “educational”. I’m very much with you concerning violent video games, btw. Thanks again for an alternate point of view, D.

  3. Nikki

    (same as what D says above in beginning)

    I like technology only because it allows me to keep in touch with people who live far away, and I already understand that my computer is not my life and there are other things to do like go outside, go for a hike etc besides sitting on a computer. With that being said, I think teenagers or older today need to be introduced to a computer because its important for when they grow up to know how to navigate through the internet etc but not so early on. Its interested what D said about how children learn the most in the first 5 years of life. (obviously the ways people raise their own children are up to them) but For me I wouldn’t want to teach a child to play on the computer rather than playing outside, just because thats not what I did and I think they’d be missing out. A person can play on the computer no matter how old, but usually kids get tired of running and playing outside naturally after they get alittle older anyway, and I think if they are thrown into the virtual world too fast, they’ll miss connecting with the earth, animals, even bugs and nature in a very important way whey they’re young. I went to visit my younger cousin (she’s 9 now) awhile ago and she kept wanting to play with this little computer pet shop thing she had instead of talking or just hanging out. When she was younger she was never on the computer, but I guess she’s learning with games and its easy to get sucked in. Now that she has her own puppy though, she just got him, she’s much less likely to “plug in” especially when we bring lealu and the puppies play:)

    1. Michael Schmid

      Hi, Nikki. Hope your week has gotten off to a great start. As a blogger and a professional in higher education delivering full credit courses and even complete degree programs via the Internet, like you I certainly am not negative on technology. You make some great points. You said, “I wouldn’t want to teach a child to play on the computer rather than playing outside, just because thats not what I did and I think they’d be missing out.” I suspect my feelings are coming at least partly from a somewhat similar place. My concerns about potential impacts on very young kids’ brains may be completely wrong, but I am a bit worried about it. I guess the key, as in most things, is parental involvement. I could probably be a better role model for our daughter. You should have seen her at the park yesterday. She sat right down on the ground by a tree and spend 10 minutes in fascination watching the bugs going about their business in the grass. Our kids can and certainly do teach us things. :)

  4. Nicole

    I’ve always been a little torn about these types of toys. I do try to limit the time she watches TV and she does have a Leap Frog Scribble & Write and she also has a VTech Tote & Go laptop I just got off ebay. That thing is so old I couldn’t find it on their website.
    Anyways, back to my point. I do think that sometimes they learn better with them but not always. When they get those toys all they want to do is just play games and not pay attention to the learning part of it. I have let her use my iTouch for a little bit with some alphabet tracing games and another educational game, but hated her playing with it because of how expensive it is so I got her the laptop. She doesn’t really want to play with that because it isn’t as neat. I haven’t given in and let her play with my iTouch again though.
    Little ones do need to get outside, which we do, and use their imagination. We do take walks and she carries a bucket to pick up stuff. She loves blues clues so we say we are looking for clues and she will pick up her ‘clue’ I think little games like that are a lot better. She seems to learn better that way and she retains it longer too!
    The games are fun when traveling or for when you really need to get something done and want them to stay still for 10 min. lol, but I don’t think they should play with them as much as I see some other kids her age do. It’s a little crazy!
    How about writing something about kids and cellphones too!?!?! WOW! Why does a 6 year old need a cellphone!?!
    Have a great night!!

    1. Michael Schmid

      Hello Nicole. I’ve been wanting to sit down and leave you an appropriately long and thoughtful reply to your comment, but family and work have conspired to rob me of the time to do so. Of course I’d not trade anything for the time spent with family. I’ll drop by your site and visit you again soon. Have a great day.

      1. Nicole

        WHAT!?! Family and work take precedence over your blog! How awful are you!?! lol No problem!

        Yes time with family is something we all love and try so desperately to get.

        1. Michael Schmid

          I do love blogging though and reading other peoples blogs. Wish I had more time to do it. I’ve met some great people. Have a wonderful weekend!

          1. Nicole

            I know! I feel guilty if I don’t get to read them most days but there are so many wonderful ones! It is a great way to meet people!!
            and if I don’t remember to come back and check responses to the comments I leave. =)

            Have a great weekend, Michael. Wait is that right? Crap, I hope so, sorry!! You can slap me later if its wrong.

            Hope you and your family have a great weekend too!!

          2. Michael Schmid

            No slapping will be required. Yes, my name is Michael. I’m a bit more vague on here about my true identity… kind of a super hero alter ego sort of thing. On Mom Loop however I use my name and you even get to see my face. The readers of my blog aren’t missing much in that department. 😉 Wait… you can see a two year old photo of me in this post from our anniversary last month

  5. Jack

    It is a reasonable question, but I am not sure that an answer exists yet.

    1. Michael Schmid

      Thanks Jack. Hopefully when enough time and data exist to tell, we’ll find that it was good for them or at least not harmful.

  6. Lynn

    I’m biased because have a child with autism and autistic children are generally obsessed with such toys practically to the point of exclusion of any other activity. So we try not to have them around or if we do they are only used as “reinforcers” to reward good behavior. For “typical” children, I think the old adage “everything in moderation” applies. If you find that your toddler is obsessed beyond the norm, it could be a red flag.

    Thanks for visiting my blog! Your follows didn’t register for some reason but thanks for visiting anyway!! It’s great to see a daddy blog out here for a change!

    1. Michael Schmid

      Lynn wrote: For “typical” children, I think the old adage “everything in moderation” applies.

      That’s good advice for children and adults alike. I had not, however, thought about how it would affect those with autism spectrum conditions. I can see how that might affect them differently, though. I appreciate you dropping by. I enjoy your blog. I must have been in a rush when I dropped by. I now follow you on Twitter, Google Friend Connect & Networked blogs! Not sure what happened there. Have a great day!

  7. Jackie

    I don’t think you’re a fuddy-duddy…or maybe I’m one too?? I won’t say I think these devices are bad. I’m not going to pay full price for them because I’d rather spend my money on books, toys that allow my children to interact with one another and me, or museum admissions. However, if I picked one of these up at a yard sale or something, I think it would be an OK toy for my child. My problem is the way they market these kinds of things. Often they are marketed as “learning” toys. Which means parents think they are ok for their kids to be using 24/7. I even have a little problem with the leapfrog toys. While they do teach children, my son learned all of his letters most likely from a leapfrog DVD, they teach mostly concepts- not thinking skills or problem solving or group interactions. I worry that we are going to have a generation of kids who are immersed in information with no ability to use it.

    1. Michael Schmid

      I’d rather spend my money on books, toys that allow my children to interact with one another and me, or museum admissions

      I’m with you there, Jackie… and also share the concern our kids (many now moving into adulthood) are losing their critical thinking skills. That is to say the ability to reason things out, and the interest to do so. Thanks so much for visiting my blog and sharing your thoughts!

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