By Daniel O. Escasa
Baby boomers may look with concern on the apparent spell that electronic gadgets cast on today?s younger generation ? teens, and even pre-teens walking around the mall, phone in hand, sending text messages to their friends.
Come to think of it, cell phones lead even young professionals, zombie-like through their day ? sometimes even in dangerous situations, such as behind the wheel of a motor vehicle.
Yet gadgets get a bum rap ? cell phone users should know better than to text and drive, or use their cell phones during religious services. We can?t blame gadgets for accidents caused by texting drivers or for disruptions at movie houses or houses of worship.
To think of gadgets as the work of the devil is therefore short-sighted ? although the devil may use them for his work, but that?s a topic for another time and place.
For the nonce, let?s look at some gadgets for your kids. The gadgets here are for early child development, then for help in schoolwork, for keeping in touch, and lastly for leisure, although there may be some overlap between the last two categories.
In 1997, Julie Clark, a stay-at-home mom who wanted to share her love for humanities with her baby, designed and created videos that offered interactive experiences for her and her daughter to discover the world together.
These were the Baby Mozart, Baby Beethoven, and Baby Monet videos.
From the Baby Einstein website:
?All Baby Einstein products, including its video line, are designed as interactive tools for parents to use with their babies. Since the debut of the very first title, Baby Einstein videos/DVDs were developed with the idea of creating a ?digital board book,? allowing a parent to have two free hands while enjoying and experiencing the video with their little one ? leaving their hands free to clap, point to objects and interact with their baby.?
Baby Einstein has added several products to their line such as mini-gyms, and toy bars that attach to most infant carriers.
The latter should keep the baby in the carrier (how may empty baby carriers have you seen in the mall, with the daddy carrying the baby in his arms?).
Those toys also feature music by Bach, Beethoven, Handel, or Strauss.
They were designed to encourage discovery and inspire new ways for parents and baby to interact, and to stimulate the baby?s development. Some of them are meant for newborn infants, others for babies three months old or older.
VTech, on the other hand, has gadgets for older kids ? for 6-12 month-old children, then for 1-2 years, 3-5, and 5-9 years. Notable are their gadgets ?for developing basic math and science?skills or musical creativity. They also have toys?for building?language skills but, as you might expect from a US company, these are for English.
Gadgets for kids 10 years+
For the child who has started reading, consider an e-reader. They?re highly portable, weighing less than a kilogram, and can hold several hundred, maybe even a few thousand e-books, depending on the configuration.
What?s more, they use e-ink for their displays, which means they?re easy on the eyes, in contrast to laptop screens. Also, the large capacity means that the e-reader may be the only book your child needs throughout his or her entire schooling. Two well-known e-readers are Amazon.com?s Kindle and Barnes & Noble?s Nook.
Lately, other e-readers manufacturers have been releasing their products at computer exhibitions. Local manufacturer REDFOX has their own e-reader.
One thing you do have to consider is that the Kindle and the Nook employ Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology so you can?t easily share ? read, ?lend? ? books to other Kindle or Nook users. Other e-readers may also impose the same restrictions.
Amazon, however, has reportedly added a lend feature that’ll send a book to another user’s Kindle and let the latter keep if for a limited period of time.
As an aside, while e-readers are great, consider introducing your kids to the joys of paper books, early on.
Also, your budding electronic genius would appreciate littleBits,?the 21st Century equivalent of Lego. ?From the Web site:
?littleBits is an opensource library of electronic modules that snap together with tiny magnets for prototyping, learning, and fun.?
Ten years old might also be the right age for a young person to have a cell phone. It doesn?t have to be a full bells-and-whistles phone, just your basic call-and-text, maybe one with a camera. Be prepared though to deal with feature envy, since your child?s classmates may have more fancy cell phones. This is also a good time to teach your child about responsible cell phone use ? both in word and, more importantly, in deed.
Gadgets for young teenagers (high-school)
Depending on how tech-savvy your young teenager may be, a smartphone may be justified. Aside from helping you keep in touch, a smartphone may have some software to help them with their schoolwork.
Tablet computers are also a possibility. Again, the iPad and Android tablets are not simply for leisure but, for schoolwork, ?there’s an app for that.?
Gadgets for college-age persons
Once your young person is in college, your choice becomes slightly complicated. The iPad or an Android tablet may still be viable, depending on your child?s major concentration.
However, a young person majoring in a computer-related course will need the best laptop you can afford. Majors of business-related courses may need to do heavy calculations and in addition prepare presentations ? they too will need powerful laptops, although not necessarily the top-of-the-line models. Majors of other courses that require mostly writing may need even less powerful laptops.
Whatever your child?s age and school level, there?s a gadget for him or her. Just remember that the gadget isn?t an end, simply a means ? to help in intellectual and emotional development, to help keep in touch, or to simply provide some entertainment. And they?re certainly no substitute for your love and attention.