Belfast Telegraph

Why it's only natural my daughter (3) loves playing on an iPad

By Claire Harrison

I remember it like it was yesterday. My dad came through the front door with a mysterious large box and set it on the floor of the living room in front of us. We couldn't believe our eyes as he opened it slowly and pulled out a shiny, grey machine. We were finally the proud owners of a video recorder – a Ferguson VCR, to be precise, and I can still feel the sense of reverential awe we all had towards this piece of ultra-modern equipment as it came out of the box and changed our lives.

It must have been the mid-Eighties and there was great excitement that night when we hired out our first film (a Bruce Lee movie) and huddled around the television, hardly able to believe it. I'm sure my parents had no interest in having a video recorder, we were never a technologically-advanced family. So they appear to have given in to pester power from us children who were desperate to have the latest modern gadget that everyone else had. We couldn't wait to show them how to use it.

From growing up in a household where the arrival of a video recorder was a big deal (you should have seen us the day a Commodore 64 computer arrived), I now live in a house which operates with a borderline addiction to gadgets and technology. We have laptops, e-readers, smartphones, iPads, an internet-enabled television and Wifi cover out to the garden. Even a few years ago, I had little interest in most of these things but I've been slowly drawn into their web and now can't imagine life without them.

As much as they are now part and parcel of modern life, I can't help but wonder about the impact they're having on my three-year-old daughter, who is much better on the 'Hi-Pad', as she calls it, than I am. I found her the other day watching Dora The Explorer all by herself. She had pulled out the tablet, swiped it on, found Netflix and picked her cartoon of choice. (I didn't even know I had a Netflix app). She had a pink toy phone in her hand and informed me that I was to be quiet as she was waiting for a call, clearly aping a scenario she has seen the grown-ups in her life do.

I don't want to give you the completely wrong impression. Katie loves traditional toys that involve imagination and role-play. She's at her happiest outside on her scooter or trike. She loves real-life paper books and insists on having at least one read to her every night (I ignore it when she tries to turn the page by swiping at it with her finger). But there's no doubt she has a particular fascination and aptitude with grown-ups' technology. I tried to wean her off my iPad (for mainly selfish reasons, I admit) by getting her a LeapPad, one of those youngster tablets which boast an educational element. She likes having her own but she's no fool and knows it's not a patch on the real thing. It wasn't long before the LeapPad was sidelined and my iPad was back in her sticky, swiping fingers.

There's nothing wrong with her being better at gadgets than me, I suppose. Children have always tended to take to these things quicker than their parents. And whichever profession she ends up in, chances are a need to be good with the technology will be an important part. (I always regretted never doing any formal education in computers). When I think back to that night when a clunky, slow, whirring, ugly big grey machine was produced from a box to the amazement of three goggle-eyed children, I can begin to understand why Katie is so fascinated with all the gadgets around her.

It's the exact same thing in a more sophisticated era. I have to smile at the thought of her in 30 years' time, looking back on her childhood memories of the primitive gadgets we used back in 2014. She'll marvel at how thick and basic those big old tablets and phones were and wonder how on earth we ever saw them as exciting, sleek and revolutionary.

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