An Anti-App Rant

My sister recently asked me if I would ever come right out and write how I really feel about certain topics. In real life, I’m opinionated and not very quiet about it, but I have tried to make this space a place where I keep things neutral. My goal is to share my parenting experiences, thoughts, and challenges in a way that doesn’t alienate or offend anyone. Where I have a strong opinion, I try to express it through questions rather than statements. It is an exercise for me and I enjoy the challenge.

But… sometimes I do long to just go off on a good, old fashioned rant, complete with sarcasm and italics for emphasis. My sister’s prompting tempted me. Then she sent me a link to this article and now I can’t resist. This article is over the top and deserves an over the top response.

If you are pro-technology for young children and think apps are the greatest thing ever, go hang out with Rage Against the Minivan (she’ll provide hours of entertainment) and come back here another day. If you are anti-technology for young children, read the article and join in!

Here goes.


This article represents exactly what I abhor about our society: technology geared for adults, packaged for kids. It’s not that I believe a young child should never ever play with an app. In certain situations it may be useful, for example, on a plane ride across the country with a two-year old (but please turn down the sound so others don’t have to listen to it!), a long car ride with squabbling siblings, or an out-of-the-blue work call from your boss during the witching hour. But Kit Eaton’s enthusiasm over apps for babies and toddlers indicates it is not a once-in-a-while-desperate-to-keep-my-kids-quiet kind of thing.  

So here are my enthusiastic responses:

aimed at babies from 3 months up, and the interface is simple enough that older babies will be able to play by themselves.

For a three-month old?! Their eye sight is just developing and you want to put them in front of a little screen with artificial, bright light and flashing images? Infants need natural light and they need to develop their sight for the scale and distances that exist in their physical world. At least let them develop their vision before you bombard them with “rapid-fire scene changes.”

Which brings me to your next point:

Younger babies will like the rapid-fire scene changes.

Excellent. Train them early to have a short attention span and be limited to shallow thought processing. Rapid-fire scene changes do not give people, especially young children, the chance to process. If you really want them to learn, slow everything down and limit the amount of information. 

Sometimes you just need five minutes of calm while your baby settles down, so try Talking Tom Cat…It’s noisy, cute and teaches your babies about interactive graphics — certain to be a big part of their lives.

Yes, sometimes we all need five minutes of calm. But rather than distract your (probably over-stimulated) child from the settling process with even more noise, why not help him/her learn techniques to soothe him/herself? Maybe sing a quieting down song? Maybe rock your baby and let the slow motion calm you both? To put it bluntly, maybe you could parent your child instead of letting a machine do it at a time he/she needs you the most! And is it really a good time to “teach” your baby when he/she is trying to settle down?

Apps can even replace a baby rattle.

Why do we need to replace a baby rattle? It is perfect for a baby and meets them exactly where they are developmentally: they can hold it and it rattles when they shake it. If you, as a 20-30 something, are bored with a rattle, then you play with the app and let the baby play with the rattle.

For bedtime, there are many options out there. Lullaby!, a $1 iOS app, is a great bet. It’s all about soothing your child to sleep with quiet versions of classic songs, and it includes a sleep timer and an alarm clock. It also has a soundboard, great for amusing babies with calming noises before bed — older babies can probably enjoy this alone.

I’ll simply translate this paragraph: Get this app and you won’t have to do bedtime anymore! No more reading books! No more singing songs! No more bonding! Hooray!

I’ve found it best to think of the hundreds of baby-centric apps as sophisticated tactile toys for the 21st century.

Oh yes, let’s indulge our kids with hundreds… because kids need hundreds of something. And in the phrase “sophisticated tactile toy,” does ‘sophisticated’ mean ‘fake’? What exactly is ‘tactile’ about the apps?

And so as not to completely bash this article, I agree 100% with one of the last sentences:

I’ll also add one bit of advice: move your TV.

To conclude, rather than getting all excited about the hundreds of apps you can use to create a baby arcade that will get you out of parenting, why don’t you get yourself an app? I recommend “BabyApp.” This app will cry, tell you it loves you, say funny things from time to time, sleep, interrupt you when you are reading or talking on the phone, and respond to up to 10 different voices of your choice. And you can turn it off! It has a picture of a baby that is generated from pictures of you, so it really resembles you! It can be programmed to grow over time, or you can keep it at your favorite age! It only costs $5!!


Whew. I’m done. 

What are your thoughts on baby-centric apps? Hopefully only anti-app folks read this, because if you are pro-app, this was a very obnoxious post.