I am a card carrying member of Generation Y. Having grown up on the internet, rocked to tunes on my iPod, and texted all through high school, I am more than amply tech-savvy and embrace all things digital. I never shuddered at the thought of snuggling up in bed with an e-reader, and am perfectly comfortable depositing my checks via my smart phone. Now that I think of it, most of the transactions I make are via the World Wide Web; heck I just did my Menorah shopping online (who knew, right?).
As such, I am an app person. I’ve got an app for everything from breastfeeding to business and beyond. So, when my little guy began grabbing and biting my phone, I downloaded some baby apps for him, too.
I do not delude myself into thinking these apps are educational. They are, however, entertaining. Very entertaining. And God knows, every mom needs an entertaining trick up her sleeve if she is to survive seeing her children into adulthood.
That brings me to this Sunday. Aforementioned little guy was under the weather long enough to warrant a visit to the pediatrician. While I love my doctor, the waiting time in his office is notoriously long and offers very little in the way of distraction. So it was armed with a diaper bag full of goodies that I lugged my cranky babes down to the office.
They say that time is relative, and if you ever have the pleasure of waiting with a sick baby, you will know what they mean. After just 10 minutes, I was through my bag of goodies, and up to rereads of Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You? Just 15 minutes in and I was plumb out of entertainment options. And then I remembered my phone. Quickly scrolling through my myriad apps, I located the Baby Rattle App and triumphantly handed it to my whimpering baby.
Sitting just one seat over to my right was the clearly experienced “I have it all together” mom, and at first I thought I was imagining the disapproving stares she was shooting in my direction. Then, she opened her mouth, and asked, “Don’t you feel like you are poisoning your baby’s brain?”
I really was not expecting that. Thrown a bit off kilter, I stammered, “Huh, the app?” To which Mrs. Old School responded, “Whatever you call those lights and noises.”
I am not usually defensive about my mommy skills. Being that my son is my first, I will gladly admit to anyone who asks that I am kind of learning on the job. But now, I had to swallow down the protests bubbling in my throat–did you miss the three lovely renditions of the best of Dr. Seuss?
A couple of minutes of shaking and poking won’t kill him. Don’t get me wrong, I am not a proponent of “screen sitting” and would never consider an app a substitute to human interaction, but do lights and noises really poison a baby’s brain? Even if used in moderation? I politely explained to my overzealous (IMHO) neighbor that, “My baby is sick, and I gotta do what I gotta do,” with as much confidence as I could muster.
As I made my way to my assigned examining room I was consumed with self-doubt. Was I subjecting my firstborn’s brain to senseless sensory overload? Could the few minutes of screen time actually be detrimental to my baby’s developing attention span? But then the techie in me protested in indignation–no harm could come from a couple of minutes of electronic exposure, or could it? Besides, it’s the 21st century, and I won’t be able to shield him forever, right?
I finally got to see my doctor and received the painful diagnosis of “it’s just a virus.” Normally that would’ve been just fine, but to my post-encounter, somewhat fragile mommy ego, now it seemed like code for “you’re obviously a clueless first time mom.” Why was I so affected by one woman’s opinion of my parenting techniques? Perhaps it’s because I already felt a little guilty about having to resort to bells and whistles to calm my son, and her comment resonated somewhere deep in my conscience.
I went home, took to the internet (the irony is not lost on me), and predictably read bunches of conflicting opinions. So, in the name of research, I now turn to you, Mommies of the world: apps–inimical or innocuous, what thinkest thou?