The Boy Who Mistook An iPhone For His Mother

from the wouldn't-worry-about-it-too-much dept

As a somewhat recent father, I've been thinking a lot lately about babies and technology -- and specifically the sorts of gadgets we carry around. Living in the age of smartphones, it's all too easy to simply reach for the phone while doing something with the baby, and in the back of my head I've wondered if that's such a good thing, and now try to put the phone away when I'm with the baby. It seems that some others are discovering new issues with kids and technology as well, with a short piece at Slate describing a father's confusion when his one-year old son started referring to any iPhone as "mama." The author, Eric Pape, says that he worries the kid actually thinks the phone is his mother -- nothing that he has regularly held the phone up to his son's ear when his wife calls, or shown the kid pictures of his mother that were taken on the iPhone. Of course, this seems like a bit of an overreaction. I doubt the kid thinks the phone is his mother, as it seems pretty likely that he just thinks iPhones are called "mama," due to association with the word and the phone. Kids are pretty resilient and good at figuring this stuff out, and it won't be long until he does figure out that his mother is called "mama" and a smartphone has an entirely different name. That said, I do still wonder how best to teach kids how to embrace technology without being consumed by technology... or if that's just something kids figure out on their own...


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  1.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Oct 8th, 2010 @ 1:46pm

    Probably not a problem

    This is probably just a miss-association with the sound "mama" and the physical object of the iPhone. The father puts the phone up to the kid's ear and says "listen, it's mama" or "it's mama on the phone". Then he shows a picture and says "look it's mama". The kid is too young to disconnect the picture on the phone with the phone itself. So the kid sees the phone and associates the sound "mama". I'd lay odds that the kid still associates the actual person with the female caregiver.

    It's just like all the miss-translations on those Engrish sites. Right idea, wrong sound.

     

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    Dark Helmet (profile), Oct 8th, 2010 @ 1:58pm

    Heh....

    "it won't be long until he does figure out that his mother is called "mama" and a smartphone has an entirely different name"

    If I were a child today around my father and his iPhone, I would have thought it was called "this piece of shit"....

     

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    Steven (profile), Oct 8th, 2010 @ 2:00pm

    Maybe even simpler

    It might even be that the child knows just what and who mama is, but also knows that mama's voice and face sometimes come through that little rectangle thing. Thus wanting mama, and not seeing mama, asks for mama to come through that little rectangle thing.

    Small children don't have the vocab to indicate between naming something and asking for something.

     

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    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Oct 8th, 2010 @ 2:06pm

    Re: Maybe even simpler

    Oddly enough, what you said is more complex then what I said or what this father is worried about. The kid would have to understand that the sound is not coming from the iPhone, but threw it and the speaker is elsewhere. If the kid is just learning the word "mama", it's unlikely.

     

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    scarr (profile), Oct 8th, 2010 @ 2:06pm

    Doesn't anybody realize?

    This is just what Steve Jobs wanted.

     

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    fogbugzd (profile), Oct 8th, 2010 @ 2:06pm

    It could be worse

    At least he didn't call the phone "Dad's girlfriend."

     

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    hexjones (profile), Oct 8th, 2010 @ 2:07pm

    "That said, I do still wonder how best to teach kids how to embrace technology without being consumed by technology... or if that's just something kids figure out on their own..."

    I have two young sons (3, 4.5) who are constantly around lots of tech: ps3, wii, iphones, ipods, dSLRs, laptops, amps, etc etc. They don't see "technology" as anything special. Sure, they want to see "scoobydoo.com" and play games in the phones, but they don't differentiate between that stuff and even their most low-tech toys. Nor should they.

     

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    jjmsan (profile), Oct 8th, 2010 @ 2:09pm

    End of the world

    Exactly how many words does the child know? If he hears his mother through the phone and wnats to hear her again, is he supposed to say "Hey dad, could you use your iphone to call mom? I am feeling lonely?"

     

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    Griffon, Oct 8th, 2010 @ 2:14pm

    Meh

    At that age? Nah. I was cat for 3 weeks, after being dad for a while first. And the cat was apple for about a week. This was at my 1.5 year old daughter was resorting the whole labeling with name concept. My now not quit two year old calls me AAHAHAHHDHDHADHDADADA. Heaven forbid I should read to much into that.
    One good point though, when your spending time with your kids, do spend the time with them. Give them that focus and attention and at will help them a ton, and be returned many times down the road.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 8th, 2010 @ 2:17pm

    morons...

    all morons. the kid didnt mistake shit. he saw a phone and wanted to use it to talk to mama.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 8th, 2010 @ 2:25pm

    With apologies to JMS

    The iPhone is Mother, the iPhone is Father...

     

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    Dark Helmet (profile), Oct 8th, 2010 @ 2:35pm

    Re: Meh

    "My now not quit two year old calls me AAHAHAHHDHDHADHDADADA."

    Maybe she just tried to read something you wrote and understand it, and that was the sound of her brain shutting down in protest....

     

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    Patrik, Oct 8th, 2010 @ 2:46pm

    Putting aside for a moment the fact that the baby has mistaken a word that means one thing for a word that means another:

    It is important that parents put down the phone. While babies might not understand exactly what's going on, by age 2 or 3 they are totally aware that Mommy and Daddy have a "toy" that is allowed to interrupt every meal, every conversation, story time, etc. Kids are perceptive enough to notice this.

    I can't imagine how heartbreaking it is to be waiting all day for Daddy to come home from work, only to have him constantly being pulled away by a flashy, tinny little piece of plastic. For me, there wasn't enough daylight for all the fun things I wanted to do with my parents.

    And besides, it *should* be making the parent sad to be constantly pulled away from their children. I coach a little league baseball team and it pisses me off to no end to have one of my players yelling for his parents to watch him go up to bat and see them checking FB or taking work emails or whatever. It *does* register with these kids. And it's silly, us coaches don't allow players to use their phones in the dugout, nor do I even take mine out of my bat bag. But Mom and Dad can't turn off the phone for 6 innings/an hour and a half? And parents: time with children is precious; these kids *want* your attention right now, but in a few years when they're teens they're not going to want anything do with you. Cherish it.

     

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    Sneeje (profile), Oct 8th, 2010 @ 2:48pm

    I called a tape recorder, "Dad"...

    When I was around 2 and my dad was in Vietnam, he used to send home tapes. My mom says I used to show the tape recorder my toys, talk to it, and refer to it as dad. I somehow managed to adjust once he came home though.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 8th, 2010 @ 2:54pm

    What's your point because....

    I don't understand.

     

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    Simon, Oct 8th, 2010 @ 3:51pm

    Sorry kid...

    "Daddy, where's Mama gone?"

    "Sorry kid, Apple withdrew their approval - she's gone"

     

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    microhousehold, Oct 8th, 2010 @ 4:36pm

    Big Brother

    iPhones are called Big Brother, not Mamma I guess.

     

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    trollificus (profile), Oct 8th, 2010 @ 4:37pm

    I'm pretty sure the problem...

    ...will be compounded if they approve my new iSuckle app.

     

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    out_of_the_blue, Oct 8th, 2010 @ 4:58pm

    Technology has already embraced *you*.

    Your cell phone already tracks your physical location, and without elaborating the obvious, automation is enabling Orwell's "1984" to become reality. We have Osama Bin Laden in the Emmanuel Goldstein role, that's about the only difference.

     

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    Jon Renaut (profile), Oct 8th, 2010 @ 6:58pm

    Broke my heart

    My daughter wasn't even two when she said, "Put phone away, Dada" for the first time. It was a bit of a shock. And there's a good chance I was reading Techdirt when she said it.

    But it has changed my behavior. I make sure I let her know when I'm checking email and will be with her in just a minute. I'm home with her from 3-530 every day (luxury of being a government contractor), and I do like to keep up on the important emails that come in while the rest of the world is working. But I work much harder now on balancing my attention between her and my internet connection.

     

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    jim locks (profile), Oct 9th, 2010 @ 12:02am

    Simply Funny. I wonder who is going to be the PAPA

     

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    Niall (profile), Oct 9th, 2010 @ 6:12am

    Re: Probably not a problem

    Actually, the chances are that it's the /association/ with 'mama' that the child is referring to.

    Ever since my (now 21-month-old) son started saying 'mama', he has constantly (and still) refers to anything belonging to his mother as 'mama'. Doesn't matter if it's her laptop, her toothbrush, or her favourite mug. So all he's doing is basic pattern-matching, recognising stuff associated with her. So it's highly likely that this kid is just recognising an 'iPhone' as being 'something that Mama uses' - and can't tell that another one belongs to someone else.

     

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  23.  
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    Gene Cavanaugh, Oct 9th, 2010 @ 2:12pm

    Iphone and "mama"

    DUH! My kids had limited language skills, and when they did something like that they meant that "whatever" (such as a POTS phone) was used to TALK to mama! They were never confused about which was which.
    My great grandson (the cutest kid that ever lived, and I am NOT biased!) can't talk at one year, but from nine months he has signed things like "more", "milk" "mama", and several others. All women, for a while, were "milk", because his mother breast feeds, but he knew who actually fed him.
    Incidentally, you should try learning simple sign language and teach it to your child - it really helps, and you can truthfully say (s)he is multi-lingual!

     

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    Griff (profile), Oct 11th, 2010 @ 4:20am

    Kids don't have the barriers we have

    My 4 year old invented a new dog lead last week.
    It's actually a walkie talkie watch with a tiny counterpart on the dog's collar. You speak commands into it and they come out on the collar in dog language. Thus he understands what you want and happily obeys. No need for the old fashioned "length of rope" technology.

    The point I'm making is that he happily assumes that either this is easy or that it soon will be. In fact he wants me to build it some weekend soon. He (and I suspect most kids) have a view of modern tech that is pretty close to magic and are not phased by any of it.

    40 years ago before he died my dad told 6 year old me "it'll be easy for your generation, unlike me you can just watch television without worrying about how on earth it works".

     

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    Cdaragorn (profile), Dec 25th, 2010 @ 7:06pm

    Re: Re: Maybe even simpler

    You're reading too much out of what he said.

    The child doesn't need to understand that 'mama' is somewhere else, they just understand that when they can't see 'mama' right now, 'mama' could come up on the screen.

    I have two small children myself right now, and they both could easily have worked that out by the time they were 6 months.

     

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  26.  
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    Gadget | Telephone Mobile, Nov 18th, 2011 @ 6:58am

    wow

    "Daddy, where's Mama gone?"

    "Sorry kid, Apple withdrew their approval - she's gone"

    Lol
    iPod | iPhone | iPad Gadget | Telephone Mobile

     

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