It was when Ricky was about 9 months old that he started getting interested in technology, writing emails to granny and grandpa.
OK, perhaps not exactly writing emails, but nonetheless, computers and iPhones made for interesting objects to play with. We didn’t necessarily encourage this behavior, and I remember being pretty shocked the first time he put an iPhone to his ear and pretended to make a phone call (mimicking what he’d seen mummy and daddy doing).
Ricky pretends to talk to Siri like mummy and daddy do
It wasn’t just screens that fascinated him. The vacuum was a lot of fun too.
As was daddy’s big camera.
It was never our intention that he would learn how to use these devices until he was much older, but as we ourselves used them constantly, he naturally picked them up (literally and figuratively), and they started to become a part of his life too.
He’d always liked looking at the photos that we took, so one evening I found an old digital camera that I’d used many years ago, and showed him how to operate it. It was pretty simple – press the button to take the shot, then press another button to see the photo.
Initially he was very excited by that, but soon got frustrated with all the photos that had his finger in them. Also, the buttons were kind of hard to press, and despite being a very compact camera, it was still a little big. The camera was quickly abandoned.
Then, a few days later when out at the zoo he asked to take a photo of the monorail with my iPhone. He loved that (it was so easy to use with no mechanical buttons to press), and soon wanted to photograph every animal he saw – so I showed him the steps to unlock the phone, open the camera app and take a shot. As well as quickly remember that, he soon discovered for himself how to review the photo he’d taken, and use the iPhone’s built-in slideshow function to play back all the photos to Apple music.
Not long after that I brought an iPhone 5S out of retirement, put it in a strong protective case, and made that his to take photos with whenever and wherever he wanted to.
So, that’s the story behind this video, shot recently in our local park. It was of course all quite spontaneous – just Ricky being Ricky!
It was a few months prior to that that he’d got into a real drawing phases. He’d been given some washable crayons for his previous birthday and would often stand at his little table scribbling circular patterns on big sheets of recycled paper. One day, when out at a restaurant, he was in need of distraction, and I recalled that I had a simple drawing app installed on my phone – Paper by 53. Why not give that a try?
He loved it (and was mystified by how his finger was still clean when there was colour coming out of it)! The pictures were similar to his hand-drawn in style (scribbled circles), but he now started to experiment more, switching between colors when drawing.
Paper 53 was then accompanied by Bear Paint, a simple painting app featuring a bunch of line drawings of various characters to fill in with colour.
The next app he learned to use was YouTube. This was not intentional on our part; we used the iPad as an easy way to play train (or Barney & Friends) videos on the TV in the living room – we would choose what he watched and for how long. But of course he would see us using the app (with all the related videos displayed down the side) and when we left the iPad out on the sofa he quickly figured out how to navigate to the YouTube app, and click on the recently viewed and related video thumbnails. It was at that point that I decided to make the iPad his, setting up various accounts for him and turning on parental controls (see YouTube’s Parental Controls and Settings page and Apple’s guide to iOS restrictions.
Aside from these apps he only uses a couple of talking animal apps (they repeat sounds back to you in a funny voice). We haven’t yet started installing ‘educational’ apps as such, although that will be happening this year. He also remains unaware of the existence of computer games – something we don’t want to change for as long as possible.
We’ve seen what a huge impact watching Peppa Pig and Ben & Holly videos has had on his language skills, so appreciate that technology can be a hugely powerful tool, but at the same time don’t want him spending the same amount of time his parents (or most other adults) do with his face glued to a screen.
We’ll continue to share how we integrate technology into Ricky and Jack’s lives. With the industry in a constant state of flux, and as Ricky is increasingly influenced by other children at nursery it’s going to be an interesting (albeit challenging) process!