The fight against spoiled children in many Black families starts early. Most new parents I know have had a mother, aunt, or grandmother swoop in and tell them, “You let that baby cry. You’ll spoil her picking her up every time she cries!” As our children get older, the focus on not spoiling them trends toward material items, especially electronics. But could our reluctance to “spoil” our children with technology at an early age set them back?
Two years ago, I sent my then two-year-old daughter to stay with her paternal grandparents for a week in the summer. I expected her doting grandparents to give her a bit more leeway than her father and I do. That’s what grandparents are for, right? I did not anticipate, however, that Bean would come home with a small Acer tablet they had purchased.
I was miffed at first. They didn’t ask us if she could have an electronic tablet. Initially, I thought we would buy our daughter a tablet when she was a little older, maybe four or five. Admittedly, I worried about her being “spoiled” too early with such an expensive toy. I had nightmarish images of her presumptuously begging for the latest iPhone by the time she turns six.
However, the more my daughter used her new tablet to access applications, I was surprised by how easily she took to it. At age three, she navigates the operating system without needing much help at all. It took me some time to realize that ability was an actual, valuable skill. I started to revaluate my reasons for wanting to expose her to technology later as opposed to sooner.
For parents like me, part of the reluctance to give our kids an electronic device may stem from the way we frame its usage. I tended to view a tablet, smartphone, or smart watch, as a kind of toy, rather than a learning tool. Sure, Bean could have a child’s Leap Pad “laptop.” But a real one? Technology was a privilege when I was growing up. I have participated in conversations about tech use saying, “I didn’t get my first cell phone until I was 16.” It’s a very different world now than it was then.
What I found was that my fears of spoiling my daughter via technology are baseless. Children largely fare well when they are introduced to electronic devices at an early age. Technology helps children grapple with a world that is constantly upgrading. It puts that world at their fingertips even if they aren’t able access it locally.
Much has been written about the tech gap between Black and Latino children and their White counterparts. The disparity exists for numerous reasons tied to economic disenfranchisement and disadvantages in education. It is ever important we prepare Black children to be fluent in tech as the amount of tech-based jobs increase. When the question is not one of affordability, but of parenting choice, exposing children to technology early and often is a sound decision.
Certainly, we can ensure our children understand both gratitude and the value of technology. My husband and I do not allow her to use her tablet when she acts out. We are still careful that she does not cultivate an attitude of entitlement. But I am no longer afraid that she will become “spoiled” if we buy her electronic devices. In that sense, my in-laws were absolutely right to get her a tablet. We can never ruin our children with too much knowledge.