Toddler 2.0

It never ceases to amaze me just how good a grasp Zac has of modern technology.

There are three factors at play here, I think. Firstly, he is a child of the 21st century, so he is used to being surrounded by all kinds of consumer technology: computers, mobile phones, iPods and other gadgets that require buttons to be pressed. Secondly, his dad is a bit of a geek. And thirdly, comparing him to his mates he does genuinely seem to possess both greater interest in playing with gadgets (conversely, he’s not at all interested in football), and then a quite astonishing aptitude for operating them unassisted.

He is exactly two years and three months old today. That is officially scary. (Unofficially, though, I am also hugely proud of him.)

Some examples:

Channel hopping

From around the time of his first birthday Zac has shown a keen interest in our Sky+ remote control. At first, to ward off his grasping attentions, we gave him an old, non-functioning remote to play with. After a couple of days of pointing it at the TV and pressing buttons, he soon realised he’d been sold a duff one. Every time I offered him ‘his’ remote, he would recognise it, shake his head vigorously, and demand one that actually worked.

That was then, this is now. He has now pretty much worked out how to navigate through the menus to play his favourite programmes. No kidding. I can wander out to the kitchen to get a drink, and return to find that the Arsenal match has been replaced by his favourite episode of Timmy Time. It won’t be long until he learns to set the parental controls to lock us out …

W, W, W, dot, B, down, down, down, enter

To keep Zac from forever venturing into our study to play with our PC – he had an unerring knack of storming in and turning it off while I was in the middle of editing photos or videos – we gave him our old laptop to use instead. He carries it in both hands around the house with almost reverential care – think of Moses coming down from Mount Sinai bearing the tablets with the Ten Commandments and you’re not far off – and he certainly seems to appreciate it’s more than just another toy to be flung around.

More than that, he already understands how to use it, at least at a basic level. Leave him to his own devices, and he will switch the machine on, fire up Internet Explorer, and utter “W, W, W, dot, B, down, down, down, enter”, which is the exact sequence of keystrokes required to load up the CBeebies website.

Once he has arrived at the CBeebies home page, he is increasingly confident in his ability to move the cursor around the screen and make whatever series of clicks he needs to load pages, play games and generally navigate his way around. It’s not just that he’s memorised where things are on particular pages; take him to a new page and, without prompting, he will quickly identify where the buttons and arrows are that he can click on. It is seriously impressive; Heather and I have been trying, with limited success, to teach one of Zac’s grandparents how to do this for over two years, and our boy is already streets ahead of this because it is all so intuitive to him.

Don’t stop the music

Zac’s favourite gadget of all is my iPhone, which has fascinated him for the past year. He has long since mastered the basic principles of operating the touch-screen to get from A to B. So, for instance, I can hand him the device and he will first unlock it (which requires him to press the ‘home’ button and then slide a bar on the screen), then press the ‘iPod’ and ‘videos’ buttons, and finally scroll down the list to select his favourite video (currently Rihanna’s ‘Don’t Stop The Music’). He will then crank up the volume and, if desired, bring up the ‘back’ button to restart the video.

To him, using technology is the most natural and comfortable thing in the world which, combined with his innate curiosity, means he is already far better equipped to cope with the future than his parents ever will be. I doubt it will be long before the shoe is on the other foot and it is Zac who has to show me how to do things.

Our tech-savvy, web-enabled Toddler 2.0 will never be Wayne Rooney. But I bet he’ll be great playing FIFA 2010. I’ll take that.