The electronic babysitter

Television has long been considered the original electronic babysitter, then came videos, DVDs and now the iPod is among them.

I had first hand experience of the evolution of the electronic babysitter when Maddi was laid up at home for a week battling a raging ENT infection. Maddi's mom won an iPod recently and naturally Maddi took immediate ownership of the device.

She spent most of her time recovering staring into the device, earphones stuck in her ears, enjoying a selection of kiddie movies. At night I even managed to get her to listen to some relaxing Michael Franks tunes while we shared an earphone apiece.

It made me think about the whole concept of an electronic babysitter. A quick Google or two and I realized that this was nothing new. Bloggers have been singing the praises of the iPod and iPad ever since it hit the market in the US.

Pros and cons?

To my mind the pros of this new babysitter is that it has the ability to keep your kid occupied. Depending on what they’re watching, the experience can be fun, entertaining or even educational.

The negatives can be a bit daunting, and I think are still subject to debate. If you have all the features activated, your kid could easily begin to engage in social networking, instant messaging, online searches etc. Some have labelled this as anti-social behaviour but I have my doubts. Surely chatting on Facebook, responding to tweets or having a fat IM conversation is by its nature social interaction?

So this then is the reality of our kids today. While we had to contend with telephones that had a dial to actually dial the numbers, vinyl records, cassette tapes, and snail mail, my 5-year-old's little fingers and brain are perfectly at home in navigating the touch screen interactivity of an iPod.

My overall sense of this new electronic babysitter is that it’s a good thing, but it does need to be monitored in terms of how much time your kid spends on it, and it has to be balanced with good old fashioned outdoor activities. The last thing you want is a fat, clever, geek rolling around from your couch to their bed from day to day.

Marlon explains the iPod and iPad

iPod: It’s a little device, roughly the size of the palm of an adult hand. It plays music and full-length feature films, with sound quality that is truly exceptional, not to mention the video quality! All the functions are touch-screen, which 5-year-old Maddi figured out in a second.

iPad: This device is about the size of an average laptop screen and is fully touch screen functional. Apparently the little ones who have access to them are taking to it like proverbial ducks to water. They can play games, download YouTube videos and do everything you and I are capable of on our bulky laptops. There are even images and stories available online for kids under 5.

Read more by Marlon Abrahams

Do you allow your kids to be 'babysat' by technology?

Disclaimer: The views of columnists published on Parent24 are their own and therefore do not necessarily represent the views of Parent24.
We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24