By Christina Moreland
Technology and moms are quickly becoming best friends. In the Information Age, where 100,000,000 new Twitter accounts were opened in 2010 and there was a 14 percent increase in the number of internet users last year, and Facebook riveted the world with unique user accounts estimated at more than 500 million, the way moms interact with technology today – and even the reasons why they choose certain gadgets – really sets a profound landscape for how they communicate with and on behalf of their children.
With the introduction of new tech gadgets, such as SmartPhones, the ipod and ipad, and now ipad2, moms, an extremely powerful consumer group, are opting to purchase many of these gadgets and use them as tools to interact, entertain and communicate with their children – often in lieu of purchasing toys, entertainment and educational tools specifically designed for children.
For example, Emma Prettejohn purchased the original Apple ipad last June in an effort to entertain her then 22-month-old over 40 hours of travel from Houston to Canberra, Australia. Now her son is two and a half years old, and apps on her gadget include, ABC Phonics, Preschool Counting, Flashcards, story books, Sprout and Kideos, which is an app that offers online videos that have been vetted to ensure age-appropriate content. Think of it as a kid-friendly alternative to YouTube. Prettejohn says her initial motive in the ipad purchase was purely centered on her son’s entertainment and education. The adult content she enjoys, such as the Weather Channel and Huffington Post, came later.
“We find that people aren’t very tolerant of children during international flights, so we try to keep him focused and quiet wherever possible,” she says. Unlike some children his age, Prettejohn’s son is not in a Mother’s Day Out or preschool program, so he goes everywhere with her, including doctor appointments, eyebrow waxing, and the grocery store. “Having him calm down and focused while using the ipad is really helpful.”
Another local mom, Eva Pappas, whose son is 3, uses educational toddler apps, such as Monkey Preschool Lunchbox, The Wheels on the Bus, and Feed Me!
Although she uses the apps primarily for entertainment purposes for her son, Pappas still purchased the Leapster reading pen for him at Christmas.
Anna Jones uses her iphone and ipad as entertainment devices for all three of her children, ages 2 to 12. She uses the technology while waiting in a doctor’s office, at restaurants and at home on occasion.
“I don’t regularly carry the ipad with me, but I always have my phone which carries the same technology,” she says. “The kids routinely ask to play on my phone.”
Jones agrees with so many apps available and at no cost or for very little cost, the ipad, tablets and SmartPhones are having an impact on how parents spend their technology resource dollars on their children.
“[Parents] used to try and keep our children busy with DVD players, games, Leapsters, paper and colors, but now there seems to be an app for everything with access to movies and television all on one machine.”
It appears Jones and Prettejohn are right on trend with a late 2009 Google Analytics study which revealed some of Google’s own statistics regarding moms online: The study said out of 34 million moms online, their top three purchase categories were apparel and accessories (36%), books, music and video (31%), and toys and games (24%). Additionally, moms today are using social media more than ever, and BabyCenter, LLC, the leading online global resource for expectant and new moms, revealed moms’ use of social media is up 462 percent within the last three years.
Natalie Johnston, whose daughter is 21 months old, agrees social media is connecting moms, with accessing resources to answer their child-related questions.
“I think parents see all that technology has to offer and are willing to spend a bit more on it if it will benefit their kids,” Johnston says. Her initial motivation in purchasing the iphone 4 was to get a handy mobile camera with good image quality so she could use to take snapshots of her two little girls.
“I upgraded from the 3G because I wanted a faster phone and better camera quality,” says Johnston. “I had not initially thought of my phone as something for my older daughter to use, but she loves to watch videos on it, and sometimes when she is super fussy or we go somewhere and I need her to sit still, I’ll let her use my phone. She loves scrolling through all of the pictures I have on it.”
Despite the many benefits and conveniences updated technology allows, a cautionary tone emits from the very moms who embrace it:
“Technology is great, but our kids still need to be kids,” says Jones. “Kids need to turn off their computers and go outside and run and play. I didn’t grow up in a texting world and I worry that our children are not learning enough about how to really develop relationships since they prefer to text instead of having a real conversation most of the time.”
Johnston agrees. “I don’t mind TV and technology to an extent, but you can’t beat playing in a park or running around with your own imagination. Those cannot be replaced.”
According to DidYouKnow.org, a nonprofit organization that provides public data statistics, (http://didyouknow.org/fastfacts/technology/), here are some technology stats that will have your head spinning:
• There are an estimated 1 billion computers in use.
• There are an estimated 2 billion TV sets in use.
• There are more than 4 billion cell phones in use; about 3 million cell phones are sold every day.
• Google handles about 1 billion search queries per day.
• About 20 percent of videos on YouTube are music related.
• 24 hours of video viewing is uploaded every single minute to YouTube.
• People view an estimated 15 billion videos online every month.
• Flickr hosts about 5 billion photographs; Facebook hosts more than 15 billion.
Christina Moreland Bio:
Christina Moreland, an H Texas Magazine contributor, is the mom of a growing newborn and a bright, spunky 4-year-old. She is passionate about all sorts of parenting and childcare issues. Her goal with this column is to equip families with good, sound information so they can be well informed and create healthy homes. Her writing has been featured in numerous Houston publications. Contact Christina at firstname.lastname@example.org.