toddlertextingTechnology addiction hooks users early—even before they’re out of diapers.

I am not, I assure you, a Luddite. I am not scared of, intimidated by, or opposed to technology and all of the wonderful ways it can help us organize our lives—at work and at home. However, we can take our love affair with technology too far.

Sixty-one percent of Americans say they’re addicted to the Internet. Sadly, our kids seem doomed to follow in our footsteps, unless we can bring back balance and teach them about the importance of real relationships.

Retailers Are After Your Kids

In a recent San Francisco Chronicle article, author Mark Townshend writes:

Toddler-safe texting has arrived.

Spurred by burgeoning demand for kid-styled tablets, LeapFrog Enterprises and VTech Holdings have revamped their tyke-targeted devices. Some features let 3-year-olds send short messages to Grandma and even watch online videos without stumbling across websites kids shouldn’t see.

John Barbour, chief executive officer of Leap Frog (Emeryville, CA), said that “Exposing our children to the Internet at an early age is incredibly valuable, but how do you do it safely?”

(Read the rest of the article.)

As I read this, I found myself screaming, “No, no, no!”

What are manufacturers and retailers doing to our children? What could possibly be so valuable about exposing toddlers to the Internet? This is not about what’s best for children. It’s about a bunch of companies that want to be in the toddler space before their competitors. They’re trying to make in-roads and are banking on the fact that parents don’t make enough time to be with their children—to play games, do homework with pencil and paper, fly kites, listen to music, work puzzles, and just be present.

Teach Them to Talk, Not Text

Now there are texting apps for children, and many schools no longer teach cursive writing because everyone types. The days of the thoughtful, hand-written note are fast disappearing. And that’s just sad.

This over-reliance on technology, and the belief that our toddlers are somehow missing out if not exposed to technology, is appalling. We didn’t bring children into this world so that technology could babysit and raise them for us. Reliance on technology will become part of their values. They won’t understand the importance of having face-to-face communication, seeing a loved one smile, sharing a laugh, giving a hug so tight that someone falls over, and caring for people, not for technology.

In the dedication for my new book, Pick Up the Damn Phone!: How People, Not Technology, Seal the Deal, I wrote the following:

This book is dedicated to the next generation—my grandchildren. To Max, Melody, Ella, and Nate, I hope that you will always enjoy talking to people, that you will love conversation, and that you’ll know when to put away your toys and connect with the world around you. Always remember the wonderful times we’ve shared and how much I love you.

This is what I want for the children in my life. What about you?

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What do you think about small children surfing the Net?