My husband and I are proud parents of three boys, ages, 12, 10 and 7. Our oldest son has been requesting an i-Pad for his bar mitzvah gift. He also insists that “all his friends” have it. We are both computer savvy and are well aware of the benefits and concerns about the internet and technology for young children as well as adults. Our gut feeling is that he is too young for it. Do you think a 13-year-old is old enough to have this or similar devices?
Perplexed in Passaic
The issue of i-Pad usage is not solely a factor of age, but also of maturity, responsibility and trustworthiness. In spite of your legitimate concerns about children and i-Pads, the best defense a parent has is educating their child, giving them the tools to make good choices, and developing an open and trusting relationship with them around technology. Rather than withholding it and denying access, it may be more productive to use your son’s request as an opportunity to engage him in a dialogue about the topic. Try asking him questions, such as:
Why do you want it?
How will you be using it?
Can you think of any reasons why a parent may be concerned?
What does he know about the benefits and risks?
What guidelines or restrictions does he think need to be considered?
Based on his responses, you will get a better sense of his readiness for an i-Pad. If you feel he may be ready, I would suggest that a “trial period” be established with clear guidelines and parameters for its usage (i.e., time periods when use is allowed, acceptable sites, games, etc.) Help your son earn your trust by enabling him to demonstrate responsible behavior.
If a problem arises, you can use it as an educational opportunity and retry it again down the road. Our best strategy as parents is instilling within our children the confidence, values and skills needed for them to make the right choices.
Finally, yours son’s comment about “all his friends have it” could be addressed with a pre-bar mitzvah discussion about sameach bachelko, being happy with your portion, and peer pressure. As a pre-adolescent, these discussions can help your son gain a better perspective on life and an appreciation for what he already has.
Wishing you well,
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By Rabbi Sam Frankel, LCSW