What happens when you combine an iPad with a potty? You get an “iPotty,” also known as the worst toy of the year, according to Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood. The organization just presented the iPotty with the dubious “worst toy” award after it won 45 percent of the vote, says a report from the Consumerist. Apparently combining toddlers, excrement, water, and $600 electronic devices isn’t the smartest idea.
But there’s another reason why the iPotty is unpopular: Kids have enough screens in their lives already. Dr. Susan Linn, CCFC director, points out that kids have managed to potty-train throughout history without relying on touch screens:
“The iPotty is a perfect example of marketers trying to create a need where none exists. In fact, the last thing children need is a screen for every single occasion.”
As one voter pointed out, “Toilet learning should be a time of positive interaction between child and caregiver.” It’s also a time when kids need to learn to read the signs and feelings in their bodies, and being distracted by an iPad could potentially impede their ability to recognize those cues.
While I agree with Dr. Linn that many parents have a bad habit of resorting to screens as pacifiers on a regular basis, I must admit that using an iPad to help with toilet training would be highly tempting. Teaching my toddler to use the toilet was the most infuriating and frustrating process I’ve ever undergone as a parent. Marketers are right in recognizing a need for distraction, but I think there are much better solutions than the iPotty.
My son and I relied heavily on books instead. While he sat on the potty, I pulled up a stool and read aloud to him from a stack of library books to keep him interested. It left us room for questions about what we were doing in the bathroom and why he had to learn to use the toilet. I was there to praise and encourage him. If he’d been lost in an iPad, I wouldn’t have had a reason to sit there.
I do think that parents need to look for opportunities to turn off screens and interact face-to-face with their kids, rather than filling their little minds with virtual images, games, characters, and conversations. The real, non-digital world is such a wonderful, stimulating place with so much to offer, but many kids don’t spend a lot of time in it anymore, which I think is really sad. The problem is that disconnecting requires a genuine effort from parents who often feel tired and overworked. The least we can do is teach kids that it’s okay to pee without a screen in front of their faces.