There’s a growing movement of parents out there actively working to keep smartphones out of the hands of their toddlers and elementary school-aged kids. The usual reasons cited for such seemingly anachronistic beliefs range from “I want my kid to develop normally” to “It’s what Steve Jobs did.” This Christmas a new reason was added in defense of the low/no-tech parent in the form of a six-year-old getting her sleeping mom’s fingerprint to unlock her phone.
Kids buying online without their parents’ consent has cost these companies millions in settlements. For Bethany Howell, in Arkansas, her daughter’s unsolicited shopping spree reportedly cost her $250 in Pokemon presents.
The wannabe Ash Ketchum — or maybe Team Rocket is more apt — used her mother’s thumb to unlock a phone and open the Amazon app as mom napped on the couch just days before Christmas, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Little Ashlynd ordered 13 Pokemon gifts for herself, and told her parents she was “shopping” when they thought their Amazon account was hacked. The 6-year-old at least reassured her parents though that she got the shipping address right.
Well, that’s not in the least bit horrifying. Not only did the 6-year-old know how to obtain her mother’s fingerprint, she had no problem doing it. That’s probably because children under the age of 10 don’t have the abstract reasoning skills to understand the real-life implications of what they’re doing with smart technology. What 6-year-old can comprehend something as simple as a family budget, let alone as complicated as identity theft?
Not only does this case present a great argument for keeping your kids away from smart technology, it also encourages parents to get them outside into the real world. Anti-screen advocates love proffering the outdoors as an alternative to too much tech play, which is great. But, your children need to understand structure as much as they need to enjoy unstructured play. Going out shopping is a great way to let your children have fun while learning about commerce, interpersonal relations and good behavior in public.
The good news for many parents is that most kid-friendly stores are exactly that: Kid-friendly. My son and I have developed the habit of living at Barnes and Noble (something my colleague Faith Moore does with her own toddler) and enjoying both the kids’ section as well as the rest of the store. Yes, it takes more energy to corral your child in public than it would to throw him out back. Sure, sometimes you just need to get something done quickly and online is the way to go. But, don’t discount the importance of real-world shopping when it comes to your child’s social and behavioral growth.
Cute, yes. Horrifying, definitely. But, most of all, the story of a six-year-old smart enough to obtain her mother’s fingerprint in order to shop online should act as a warning to parents everywhere to stop living on screens and start living with their children.