Cross-posted in "Parenting Teens" and "Special Needs Parenting"
We have a new dilemma in our blended family: the iPad.
My biological sons (twins, freshmen in HS) have "Non-Verbal Learning Disabilities" (which, similar to Aspergers, puts them on the Autism spectrum) + vision and fine motor issues. They're allowed to use assistive technology in school. The original agreement with the high school (at the end of last year), was:
* As many of their textbooks as possible would be loaded on the Kindles their paternal grandmother gave them two Christmases ago (Kindles can blow up the font size of text);
* Much of their writing and note-taking could be done with Neos. Those are small, portable word processors (updated AlphaSmarts, if you're familiar with those). They're relatively cheap (~$170 new, or $50-$100 used) and offer the basic convenience of a laptop, without any of the sexiness. There are only 4 lines of visible text, no graphics, no internet access. (No distractions!)
Then, at the beginning of this year, the Vision Specialist threw a wrench in the works, by telling me (in front of them and my ex, their Dad) that the public school system (which she works for, although the twins attend a Catholic school) could provide them iPads! She also went on about how the kids all think those are so cool and prefer them to the Neos. Lovely.
Let's skim right over the fact that I was originally told the school system could not provide Neos, so I bought those myself. (But they can provide iPads?!?!?!?)
My objections to the iPads - reasonable or not (please comment!) - are as follows:
1- The twins have a pretty normal, middle-class upbringing, with me. In all fairness, I guess I'm more back-to-basics than the norm. Our microwave broke and we realized we can live without it. Same with the coffee maker - now we make coffee the old-fashioned way. Our electronic stove broke and we replaced it with a beautiful 1940's gas unit, without an automatic pilot. Our a/c broke and we realized that, in our well-shaded, well-ventilated house, we really only need to turn on its replacement when it's over 90 degrees. We only buy used cars and drive them 'til they die...partly on principle. You get the picture.
DH and I both use computers heavily, but have only owned used laptops, until we got super-cheap deals on our current, new ones. The twins and my step-son (12, lives with us) shared a desktop unit, until DSS's grandmother bought him a netbook (cheap, as laptops go). Then DH and I found good deals and bought the twins a netbook to share, for their birthday; and a 2nd one, for their next birthday. So now all 3 kids have their own, rather basic computer. I would really like a tablet computer like the iPad, but we planned to wait a couple years, until prices fall under $200, for me to get one.
I don't like kids feeling entitled to have the latest technology - or to own expensive things their parents can't even afford to buy for themselves. I don't like buying kids things like laptop computers (even cheap ones) - which the kids know were a financial sacrifice, and something special...then replacing them with something more exciting only a year or so later.
My ex grew up wealthy, with busy parents who bought him anything he wanted. I distinctly remember when we were in our early twenties, with infant twins. He had a great job, compared to most of our friends. We had a nicer apartment than most of our friends and two cars - one was even very nice, and new. We had fabulous health insurance at a stage of life when most of our friends were uninsured. But we couldn't afford a digital camera when they first came out and cost $800. My ex was too sensible to have bought one, anyway, while the early technological kinks were still being worked out. But the knowledge that he couldn't walk into a store and buy one, had he wanted to rendered him depressed, moping on the couch, for at least a week! I don't want my kids to wind up like that!!!!! Since we broke up, their Dad appears to have become much wealthier than his parents, and there's the definite potential of the twins growing up just like he did. Thankfully, my ex is considerate, when I ask him to refrain from buying them things. I try not to take advantage of that and be too controlling. But I did ask him not to buy them iPads yet, and he hasn't.
2- DSS is drooling for an iPad. It seems horrendously unfair, to me, to let the twins have them (ostensibly because they "need" them, for school) and not to get DSS one. DSS has his own issues, with entitlement. There's a lot of bitterness and competition from his mother, who lives far away and does her best to try to sway DSS to announce that he'd prefer to live with her, in part by buying him all the latest stuff. In the past, for example, we have refrained from buying DSS an iPod Touch for his birthday, because 6 months before his had Mom given him an iPod Nano and we didn't want to be competitive, or replace her special gift. Then she bought him a Touch! I don't want to feel - or have DSS or anyone else think - that we're actively trying to win that competition. I don't think it's a competition parents should ever engage in, as it creates spoiled kids with unrealistic expectations for their future lives, when they're supporting themselves.
3- The twins really love technology, Facebook, etc. I do worry that having anything "cool" or that seems like a full-fledged computer, in school, would be distracting. And getting through high school is going to be a lot of work for them, as it is.
So, if you read this long thing, what do you think? Am I wrong to consider DSS, in making decisions about the twins' assistive technology? Should I be giving more weight to how having something "cool" at school might bolster the twins' attitude about learning and help them, socially? Am I simply a nutty, old-fashioned killjoy?