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UPDATED: I Gave My 3 Year Old an iPhone: Have I Created a Monster?

A few months back, my wife went on a girls’ weekend trip from East Coast to West, gone for a total of five days. I survived my first long stretch with our three year old daughter alone, but it wasn’t easy. At 43, I came to parenthood late in life, and I have to admit being a father is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. During my wife’s much-needed and deserved vacation, I perhaps relied a bit too heavily on the TV for entertainment and babysitting. But the TV gave me the few minutes throughout each day that I needed to get things done or just take a minute to myself.

When my wife returned, we settled back into our routine, consisting of 1-2 days per week when we eat dinner out as a family. These events can also be challenging, as our daughter is one of those kids who just cannot sit still for anything. She seems well connected to her surroundings and engages with us and others, but she is perpetual motion personified. So imagine my surprise when the littlest tornado actually sat in her chair for an entire meal!

My wife’s new secret weapon was a series of iPhone apps created especially for toddlers that one of her California girlfriends had recommended. The most popular with our daughter is Letter Tracer, which works as the name suggests. So my daughter was occupied by learning to write her letters. The device and screen provided the engagement that pen and paper hadn’t, and she delighted at being able to successfully trace all the letters of the alphabet, smiling and exclaiming “Look Daddy, I did it!” each time she completed a new tracing. My daughter was having a blast learning how to write her letters, and her parents were enjoying not just her growth but a nice restaurant experience as well.

As 2009 wound to a close, I engaged in my typical year-end organization efforts, scouring boxes and folders to discard what I didn’t need and properly file what I wanted to keep. When I found my original iPhone (16GB Edge; no 3, no G), my first thought was to sell it on eBay. I had great success selling an iPhone 3G on eBay, after all, getting $350 for one that had been exposed to moisture but was working perfectly. Then it hit me: why not load it up with iPhone apps for toddlers like Letter Tracer, put it in a heavy duty case with a screen protector, and make us into a three-iPhone family? Better, why not rip all the discs we use on a portable DVD player during long family trips, making it even easier to travel? My schedule didn’t allow me to finish configuring “her” iPhone before our trip to New Jersey for Christmas, but I was able to unveil it shortly after we returned, which turned out to be a good thing as I was home with our sick daughter the week between Christmas and New Year’s.

My three year old daughter now has her own iPhone, though without service so it is effectively an iPod touch. And how did I create a monster, you might ask? Easy. Her first words upon waking from sleep are “Where’s my iPhone?” Her reaction to her parents call to come to the dinner table, head upstairs for a bath or get ready for bed is to clutch her iPhone and cry. Even though I loaded her iPhone with some of her favorite apps from her mom’s phone (by re-downloading to our black Macbook, as I couldn’t get iTunes Home Sharing to work with my wife’s Macbook Air), she only really uses it to watch a small handful of videos that I ripped or downloaded. And she uses it constantly: sitting in a chair, laying on the floor, walking from room-to-room… head down, focused on the iPhone screen, it can be a challenge to get her to disengage with the device and engage with us.

So how can this be a good thing, or at least not bad? For one, I long ago read “Everything Bad is Good for You” by Steven Berlin Johnson, and take solace that her use of the iPhone at this early stage is at least teaching her some valuable skills, including human-computer interaction (for example, she is still mastering the art of touching a video then touching again on the appropriate icon to pause or play it). The videos I loaded are generally good quality educational content, so there are learning moments in them. And her ability to use the iPhone or not has quickly become the “carrot” and “stick” motivation we’ve long needed: she responds to our threats to take it away or promise to let her use it as with nothing that came before it.

As the novelty of watching videos begins to wear off, I expect our daughter to explore all of the possibilities that her iPhone offers. We’re already using the built-in clock to learn to tell time, Camera to take pictures, and Weather to see if it will snow today. I can imagine using apps like Best Camera to learn more about art and photography, or Vocabulearn Tagalog to learn her mom’s families native language (which I need to do before we go to the Philippines in a year or two). In the meantime, she’s already started to use some of the toddler apps I installed, like Kid Art, Voice Toddler Cards, and the Curious George Coloring Book.

The real challenge will be to help our daughter use her iPhone as an educational device, and avoid the trap of becoming too immersed to the detriment of social, motor, and other skills development. The real question is whether I’m a bad dad for giving a three year old an iPhone. What do you think?

UPDATE: The response generated by this post have been pretty emotional, ranging from “are you crazy?” to “way to go dude!” Most responses cautioned moderation, suggesting that as long as there was parental involvement and some limits to her using it, it likely wasn’t a bad thing.

I mentioned that she awoke from sleep asking “can I have my iPhone?” In the almost 3 weeks that have passed, the iPhone has followed a now established trajectory for many toys, games, and clothes. There is an initial period of intense interest, which soon wanes. The iPhone is now simply one of many toys at her disposal. In fact, she prefers her Barbie cupcake baking kit now, and her interest and infatuation for it seems to be lasting longer than it did with the iPhone. She can also read a couple of books on her own, though mostly through memorization. It is quite obvious that she prefers playtime and interaction with Mom and Dad, and we’re happy to give it.

Still, there are times when she wants to use the iPhone, and other times when we’re all too happy to rely on it. I really was worried shortly after giving it to her that I had made a major mistake. I’m less worried about that now, and more worried about just being a good dad.

Image courtesy of Flickr user jessica.garro

269 Responses to “UPDATED: I Gave My 3 Year Old an iPhone: Have I Created a Monster?”

  1. When my son was 2 years old, he used to go everywhere with his calculator. It would entertain him on long drives, and he even slept with it. He was also using the computer with the mouse by 3 years old. Now that he is twelve, he is in the advanced math program at school and is getting 98% in computers (he also does well in other subjects). With parental supervision, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with introducing children to technology at a young age, as long as it’s rounded out with other healthy activities.

  2. jeanneiemarie

    It’s great that you are thinking about this.

    I’ve worked with young kids most of my life; and met many wonderful, educated, hard-working parents who just don’t have that much knowledge about child development. I wish that it was a required course in junior high, and high school. Oh well.

    I fully understand needing some “down time” – I have a very active daughter who’s been watching some PBS/videos since she was 2 – @ 30 minutes a day til she was five, now sometimes 45 minutes or an hour. It’s very routinized with her; late afternoon; in a special place, (now that she’s seven) one or two half-hour shows only.

    Sometimes she plays computer games with her Dad.

    But – her primary “job” these last years has been growing physically, socially/emotionally, and cognitively. For that to happen she needs @ 3 hours a day of active play (as a pre-schooler); active as in outside or dancing/running etc. inside.

    She needs primary interaction with adults/other children, her age, and other ages, etc., etc.,…and the exploration of her world; the world of people, the world of nature, the sensory world of art, music, …she needs lots of book reading. And so much time playing.

    There is so much three year olds need to learn; so much they are discovering about human interaction; about cause and effect in the physical world..

    they have LOTS of time ahead to learn to use technology. And many studies have shown NO advantage to children who learn to read letters, etc. earlier than others; they all catch up in the end; …Precocity in this area – and too much time spent; (IMHO, more than 20 – 30 minutes a day “total” screen time, which includes TV, computers, etc.) takes away from time she does other things.

    Start now. When home, you probably have routines. Pick a time, a place, and set a timer for her “screen time.” When it’s done, it’s done for the day.

    Remember that creativity, empathy, physical growth – they come from movement, from discussions, from experimenting with the wider world out there. From interacting with others.

    We don’t do our young children any favors by this emphasis on technology.

    Young childhood is such a short time in life. Please let’s let our little kids be little kids.

    Go observe good nursery/preschools for ideas for activities.

    And, I’m ten years older than you with a seven year old!!!

    jeanne marie

  3. norcaltruth

    HaHaHa…..You have not created a monster, you have created a genius! How so? Do you think that America has the most intelligent minds of our age? Well we don’t! Our children have a much lower average than many developing countries. The drop out rate in schools is skyrocketing every year. My students continue to get more and more detached from human interaction. Kids think life is a video game. What a sad reality for a child.

    • And your students deserve to drop out. If they believe that the world is a video game, then whats the point? If they are unable to decipher reality and game then is there really a reason to care?

    • You obviously don’t understand what the power of the present has created do you?

      What video games has created is not a sad reality, no in fact these kids have potential to create war commanders, leaders of the field and strategists. You are blind, these kids are building a prominent path to military success. If teachers didn’t be so lazy they would promote this in students. Also the drop rate gives us some good, easily persuaded idiots to send in as fodder our strategists and commanders could deploy.

  4. It’s incredible how children now a days are so intelligent and learn so quikly. I have a little sister myself that is the same way; you only have to tell her once and she has memorized what you have said.

  5. Wow! I am so surprised that people think that giving kids something just because they want it is a good thing! She would probably also love candy every day for breakfast. Yes, being a Dad at your age is challenging, but also a huge responsibility you cannot just simplify for the moment.

    I would recommend you consider this: There is a huge, wonderful world out there beyond her current addiction-which it is-let’s be honest! Your daughter’s sensory activated learning centers are not being stimulated by electronics alone. Television is another drug.

    Read “Last Child in the Woods” and my book and then ask yourself if you are doing the right thing. Quick fixes are usually a huge problem down the road and possibly even irrepairable! Take it from me! I have seen these kids years later in school. Not a pretty site.

    Since this is your first child, isn’t it better that you trust people who are professionals at raising children rather than feeling appeased by a bunch of like-minded buddies that don’t have that experience or your child’s best interest and future in mind.

    The fact that other parents may find the I-Phone amusing as a new pacifier and worth duplicating concerns me and inspires me to write this reply.
    Good luck!

    • Nice little plug there for your stupid little book. As a 16 year old who from 16 months had a Mac, I can attest that technology when I was young has helped me be ahead of todays world. I would sit in front of a computer for 3 hours a day and I would do sports. By the age of 4 i could take apart and put back together that computer. By 8 i built my first laptop. Today, I’m starting my own computer and cell phone repair business because of technology. I have sat down and had REAL meeting with REAL people and i can communicate on a level that compares with adults. I agree it shouldn’t be a substitute for real parenting, but giving your child that head start is essential for life later on.

    • Hm, interesting point yet see your flawed, technology isn’t a ‘pacifier’ it is something that allows the more intelligent breed to exploit their talents at an early age and not become a brute force meat bag that ends up in construction, or god forbid an idiot of the media.

      Grannypants, its time to let go of your pathetic ‘morals’ and ‘old-fashion’ and develop some actual sense in the present rather then sit by your past and enforce it at the quicker learning youth that we have created. We are like super humans of the mind we are better and raising us with the weaker styles you enforce will only be a downfall to us.

  6. im glad im not the only one who experiences this, when my daughter was 2 she wanted to play with my phone. she would un-lock it and just take pictures of everything! now i have apps for her & she will sit hours with my phone, i actually debated on getting her a i touch but then thought it might be a bit to much for a 2 year old to get a touch, but after reading this i didnt even think that activating my old i phone would do… Thanks!

    • I’m glad that I’m not the only one who experiences this, when my daughter was 2 she wanted to play with my phone. She would un-lock it, and just take pictures of everything! Now, I have apps for her and she will sit hours with my phone; I actually debated on getting her an ITouch, but then thought it might be a bit to much for a 2 year old to get an ITouch. After reading this I didn’t even think that activating my old IPhone would do. Thanks!

      Run on sentences and grammatical errors.
      I fixed your post for you, no thanks needed.

  7. Jim Hagen

    Congratulations on contributing to the further zombification of the human race. You made the key observation–‘it is hard to get her to disengage from the phone and engage with us.’ Get used to it.

  8. This is a great posting. As a new “father” figure myself to a 12 year old and 3 year old that cant stop running around and bouncing off the walls, I can totally relate to your decision to provide a means for you and your wife to stay saine. You justify yourself by making it “educational” I see it this way, small children are going to learn regardless. Their minds are empty holes soaking up everything around them. Wether its an iPhone or a stick. They will learn something from interacting with it. So feel guilt free and enjoy your quiet time. Im jealous!

  9. Hey Patrick, nice going with the iPhone.

    But make sure you keep your daughter engaged in the 3D world, she needs to learn how to build relationships with real people and how to live an ordinary life without hanging on the gadgets all the time.

    I personally have always felt that using the TV as a babysitter is a bad idea, and likewise, I think too much iPhone is also a bad idea.

    I would set fixed hours daily when she would be allowed to use the iPhone where aside from those hours, she should play with more mentally-stimulating activities like physical puzzles, lego, music and maybe even really simple sudoku.

    The idea is to spread out development to all parts of the child’s brain than to focus too much on one faculty.

  10. yep, im an old fart. now thats out, qualify my remarks accordingly. he he he. lets call this iPhone what it is, an escapist device from a company that evolved to help us part from our money. its a toy, now for the children and was when it was introduced for us old farts. sorry, but these kids are developing skills that may help them revel in the techno society, but will suffer on the social and interpersonal scene. it creates isolationism, and de-volves them from the critical inter-human activities that require ‘hands-on’ contact with other warm blooded humans. ok, thats my contribution.

    • Yes, I’m elderly. Now that’s out, qualify my remarks accordingly. Let’s call this iPhone for what it is, an escapist device from a company that evolved to help us part from our money. It’s a toy, now for the children, and was when it was introduced for us elderly. Sorry, but these kids are developing skills that may help them revel in society, but will suffer on the social and interpersonal scene. It creates isolationism, and de-volves them from the critical inter-human activities that require ‘hands-on’ contact with other warm blooded humans. Okay, that’s my contribution.

      I fixed your horrible grammar and spelling, also ‘Old fart’ is derogatory the elderly, if you are going to insult someone, insult those that deserve it.

      Now then, you say that technology destroys contact with humans and leaves people isolated. This is were you are wrong, I have had more hands on relationships with people due to technology. Thanks to social networking I have made friends with my friend’s friends. I have made large, lasting and healthy relationships with people that are hundreds of miles away. I am not isolated, I am surrounded more then ever due to technology, I have more social interaction then when I did when I had to develop them in the school-yard. I strongly disagree with you on this technology surrounds us all with friends, not killing interaction but promoting it.

  11. ScottNYC

    Your doing the right thing, get them engaged as early as possible to give them the leg up in the future, I was given my first computer as 4, 5, 6 something like that , a commodore 64, and I think because of it it peaked my interest in technology, and have been involved ever since.

  12. I am glad that you put this out there it shows that you care about the choices you are making on behalf of your young daughter. I have been and educator for children ages 4 to 8 for almost 10 years and it is amazing to see how technology has affected a child’s Psyche. For example I am not sure if you know but the level of illiterate toddlers has doubled in the last five year and it is being strongly attributed to television. So just because you have an application that is supposed to teach your child vocabulary dose not mean she will actually learn anything. They are talking on TV all the time yet children are still illiterate at an age where they should be gaining new vocabulary everyday. I understand you justifying your choice by saying that this can teach your child something but all it really is is a toy and is this toy necessary for your child to grow up happy, well adjusted and strongly tied to her family? There is nothing in the world that can bring that into ones life but quality time. Now I am not trying to say what you do and don’t do because I really don’t know I am simply giving you my advise. As far as using this toy as a punishment or reward that also dose not justify it’s use. The fact of the matter is that we have teenagers who no longer know how to interact within adult society. They are constantly texting and on their phones. Social interaction between parents and kids has changed forever. I suppose my question to you would be is, if your child will soon be caught up in this technological world as soon as she is old enough maybe now is a good time to simply enjoy your daughter as she is with her imagination and ever growing mind and personality. By the way anyone who says that a three year old child needs any human-computer interaction skills is misleading you for profits. All a child needs is love, attention, understanding, good nutrition and friends. That is what being a child is all about. Lets (the people) stop robbing them of these sweet simple times. Thank you.

  13. You are walking a VERY fine line.

    There is nothing wrong with introducing your daughter to technology, but as so many have attested, it is the monitoring of usage, content and the development of appreciation of worth that will be the long term challenge for you.

    You think being a parent in your 40’s is the hardest job on earth. Lol. I’m your age and have 4 children, and the youngest is 16. You have it sweet right now, you have total control. When they become a teenager it’s a whole new ball game (especially with emotionally manipulative girls) and then you’ll be able to ‘partially’ answer your own question. I say partially because so many parents still believe their teenage spoilt brat is so wonderful (even though the parents are forking over for the 4th mobile phone because Jenny lost her’s… again, or paying for the $800 phone bill because Ricky didn’t realise international phone calls were so expensive – phoned his girlfriend everyday she was on holidays).

    I smile when my children complain, ‘Dad, why do you have to know so much about computers, none of the other parent’s do’; because I go through and set Parental restrictions, set access times, and read internet access logs (the Time Capsule’s being nowhere near as parental friendly as other router’s I’ve used) and then restrict further or totally remove internet/computer access privileges based on the number of Porn sites my kids may have visited that week:-(

    Restrict iPhone use based on battery life, you’ve got to be kidding!

    My kids got their own hand-me-down Mac’s when they were 5ish.

    I spent 3 weeks writing an AppleScript program that would not allow any access to the computer until their homework was done. It took my then 6 yo son 2 days to figure out a work around – start with Extension off, for those who remember OS 9. (I’m very proud:-).

    I’m lucky, with 4 kids you set the rule for the 1st one and the rest have to follow suit – You buy your own mobile phone, that way when you loose it you can feel the pain!

    Unfortunately with High School these days it’s essential that they have a laptop so we had to buy those – second hand. Of course one day our youngest son reports that his screen has been damaged, because another kid tossed his bag against a tree. The MacBook was in a protective hard case, the kid must have been practicing hammer throwing to do the damage he did – bent the metal frame! Neither the parents or their perfect son offered to pay for the damage.

    So it was live without a MB or figure out how to afford to repair it. I was able to source a raw LCD screen, I gave my eldest son the tools and pointed him to where he was able to follow the excellent online guides to dismantle his brother’s MB and replace the screen. All for 1/3 the quoted price from Apple. The youngest son did the eldest’s chores for quite a while.

    My eldest son has since smashed the screen on his Samsung mobile phone (he bought what he could afford), I sourced the screen, he did the replacement in 10 min.

    My sons now have a small sideline business at school where they do screen, battery and HD replacements for Apple mobile devices.

    So, was introducing my kids to computers at an early age a good thing or not?

    Most people would consider me pretty draconian with all the monitoring and restrictions I enforce – although I consider myself fairly liberal, at their current age I allow my kids unrestricted (not time, but content) internet access, it’s only if they choose to visit the wrong sites that they suffer the consequences.
    I take my kids hiking, we mountain bike, we’ve white water rafted, we’ve gone on international backpacking holidays, the boys have their SCUBA ticket – the girls weren’t interested. We eat dinner as a family. Once a week we have a Movie Night.

    Yet with all this, I think my kids spend way too much time on FaceBook, Chatting and gaming on line, enjoying the virtual world whilst avoiding the realities of life. I really do worry about how well my kids can remain focused, prioritise, sacrifice and above all develop committed relationships. But I’m just an old fart, the younger generation tell me that that’s just the way it is. My eldest daughter’s current love she found from an online dating service. From my perspective they’re a great match. My youngest daughter found her love at college, seems pretty old school ;-) My eldest son though, he goes through girls like they’re iPhone Apps, try them out for a couple of weeks then move on to something new :-( My youngest son hasn’t quite got into the dating scene, but I’m happy to report that he’s socially adept, doesn’t seem to have a problem striking up a conversation – whether you’re 9 or 90.

    So there you go, no answer at all. I don’t know and probably wont until mine are 30ish. But I do believe, more control, more monitoring, more involvement on my behalf wouldn’t have been a bad thing – not caring, not being involved, not setting boundaries AND enforcing them, not having heated arguments with kids about what Billy’s parents let him do, not admitting you’re occasionally wrong; that I know is tragically wrong.

    So as someone else wrote, look forward to the answer in 25 years.

    Enjoy it now, it only gets harder :-)

    • Nicolas B.


      I’m quite surprised nobody took a minute or two to answer your comment – which by the way I found very interesting.
      Although I am a teenager myself (I’m 17 & a half) I think you’ve all in all made the right decisions. Even if I think parental controls can be frustrating and sometimes even an incitation for the kids to bypass it and would myself need to give it some time to think before settings any of those up, it’s nice to see that not all protective parents are oblivious to the needs that growing children have.
      While everyone will agree that giving a 3yo a fully working cellphone (WHICH IS NOT WHAT WE’RE TALKING ABOUT HERE) is completely stupid if not dangerous, I sometimes see some teens my age without a cellphone because their parents think it’s not right and wonder what the hell the latters are thinking.
      Regardless of whether they like it or not cellphones today are what Casio watches were in the 80s, you’re just not in if you don’t have one. Obviously having a mobile phone will get you out of trouble in many situations (car broke down, bus can’t pick them up, 911 EC, etc) and even for that they’re necessary past a certain age.
      So yeah I’m somewhat off-topic now but I just wanted to say that it feels nice knowing some parents can find the right pacing between “overprotective” and “find out for yourself”.

    • Mistletoe

      I’m with you on this. Technology itself isn’t inherently bad; it’s a tool, which one needs to learn to use responsibility. It sounds like you’ve found a real balance, Wayne, and I hope Patrick can as well.

  14. Jake Coventry

    My boy is almost 2 and uses our iPhones in the morning sometimes. He loves to look at photos of himself and family etc, he also loves to watch videos that we’ve taken of him on it. He laughs his head off when he sees himself being silly or laughing etc. I have a couple of apps, but to be honest he just likes flicking through pictures looking for his favourites. I think it is perfectly safe for him to look at photos and videos, he also adores books and stories, so I think it is just supplemental to this. He watches TV too.. shock horror!!!

  15. Just so no one has to guess at my bias, I’ll just put it out there that I despise Steve Jobs, Apple, and virtually every product they’ve ever “made” (as in added a slick coat of paint to fragments of other people’s labor). So that’s where I stand on that.

    Now, as to your question, if you are really concerned, then don’t listen to any of us Joe Intarwebz in the peanut gallery. Go find a child psychologist, or any psychologist with training in early childhood development. There are known, definite risks to exposing a child to activities that don’t involve interaction with other people. There are known, definite risks involved with overexposure to artificial screens at an early age. There are speculated risks involved with young children being exposed to certain types of radiation generated from various types of devices. iPhones are made in China, and in our household, that is synonymous with “Made with lead, cadmium and/or other dangerous heavy metals known to cause developmental problems” until an independent third party tells us otherwise.

    I’m not judging you at all, if for no other reason than because I’m in no place to. As the father of a high-powered three year old, Lord knows I understand how tough it can be. I confess that there have been more than a few days when I’ve let the TV (Sprout Network and a stack of Dora and Disney CD’s) do some distraction for me beyond what the child development experts recommend. I would urge that you find out if anyone has done a heavy metal analysis on the iPhone, because for as much time as your daughter is holding it in her hands, it *is* leeching any heavy metals in its case into her skin, and you need to know about it *now*. After that, please talk to a child psych expert about her exposure levels. The costs for a small series of visits is really minimal, especially for anyone who can afford to pay the AppleT&T Taxes.

    • Wow, its people like you that make me ashamed to be under the christian influence. You obviously have no sense of the bible if something as well developed as an IPhone can be anything but helpful. Its called: Putting limits, if you are not able to put limits on time your child uses technology, then you are not able to control your child and should put him/her up for adoption so they don’t get influenced by this ridiculous logic.

      Also, radiation takes years, yes YEARS to develop any kind of cancer, if your going to make an argument, then do some research and don’t put your idiotic thoughts out there with no form of direction at all.

      Also, I have gone long to avoid people, unlike superficial mindless zombies of the media like you have been promoting. I actually have thought and run to those that make their lives out of the main stream media and can develop thoughts beyond. “Oooh shiney”

      Try to make thought before you post here, good day.

  16. When I was that age, I too spent many hours staring at a small object, refusing to acknowledge the world around me, and howling if it was removed. It was called a “book”. Technology moves on, and you’ve moved with it, but the same principles apply.

  17. It does not matter what you give, it can be a Nintendo, a Barbie, a transformer, money, dog. But if the you (or the parent) can not control your kids, and then you kids can became a spoiled brat.

    “Correct your son, and he will give you comfort; He will also delight your soul. ” Proverbs 29:17

    “Discipline your son while there is hope, And do not desire his death. ” Proverbs 19:18

    “Do not hold back discipline from the child, Although you strike him with the rod, he will not die. You shall strike him with the rod And rescue his soul from Sheol. ” Proverbs 23:13-14

  18. Good for you, what an innovative solution to a common problem. Personally I find a bit of guitar hero (xbox in my case) works as a pretty good incentive, plus it has the added benefit of being an activity the whole family can enjoy as well as find challenging.

  19. I had to chuckle when I read many of these comments. The variation of comments just shows how great people really are. If there were not differing points of view on the effects of this technology, then our society would be a boring monotony of brainless lemmings. I have two kids, one is 19 and the other 18. Both were given computers and gaming devices as young children, with limits that changed over the years. Both graduated from high school with honors. One now works for a large computer firm, the other is in college still trying to figure out just what he wants to do. I see this as a positive result!

    Ultimately, only you can decide what is right for your child. You’ll change your mind a thousand times in a single week, let alone over the course of years. Trust your judgment, and your child to tell you what is right for your family. Have fun!

  20. The idea that you are somehow hurting your child by giving them access to technology is ludicrous. Children are not that fragile. And technology is all around them, part of their world. It isn’t in any way making them less social, or myopic, quite the opposite. Teens today are connected to the world. I am always amazed at what my teenagers know, compared to what I knew when I was their age, of the world. But then, I didn’t have the advantage of computers and internet and cellphones and being connected to the huge diversity of people and opinions as they are.

    Don’t worry about your daughter. She’s clearly intelligent and lively and thriving. And she has parents who truly care. She’ll be more than fine.

  21. Bad Dad? No. I’m downloading Letter Tracer for my toddler after I post this reply. My boys, ages 2 and 4, love using my iPhone on the airplane or long car rides – my way of moderating their use. I like the idea of giving them a dedicated phone especially if I can get a new one out of the deal.

  22. Unaphiliated

    I suggest you take a look at “Superfreakonomics” by Levitt and Dubner. They found data that shows an increase in crime rate with the introduction of television, the technology not the content. I think it’s impossible to know what the real effects will be on the short term, and 3 year olds are in the middle of a huge peak of their lifetime learning curve. As with all things in life, moderation tends to be good advice.

  23. You could get her a Nintendo DS which is sort of especially designed for that kind of thing and has tons of educational games available.

    On the other hand, I share your original concern on whether giving a kid an addictive toy is the best way to make them sit still. No matter how energetic she is you should teach your kid to respect your authority enough and to behave properly enough that you can take her to a restaurant without having to dope her with electronics.

  24. Please don’t forget to let your daughter play outside. It’s something we always did as kids, but the following generation hasn’t had nearly as much time outside, and as Richard Louv has discovered (and written about in Last Child In The Woods), it’s had detrimental effects.

    However, there are some good iPhone apps you can use with your daughter that can increase her enjoyment of the outdoors. One company,, makes bird ID apps that allow you to view the bird, hear their calls, and learn more about them. If using your daughter’s iPhone to explore the outdoors gets her outside more often, go for it! (And then go and play a game of hide-n-go-seek! That’s a classic ‘real world app’ that will forever be popular.)

    • Istorytime.
      The girl will not even know what a book probably is besides that it’s a nice app, probably with sensual effects.

      Graham, I somehow think you forgot the girl is 3 years old and has just learned to appreciate the letters of her name. The next you’d perhaps recomment to get her a hourly course on advanced IT technology in preparation for high school demands?…