I don’t feel that old, but I have increasingly found myself talking to my children about them good ol’ days. I have them gasping in awe as I regale them with tales of not owning a cell phone until I was in my late twenties, and getting my first email account when I was in fourth year university. They might only be three, five and eight, but my kids are already more tech-savvy than I was a mere 10 years ago. My eight-year-old types faster than I ever will and knows how to search the Internet. She can even adjust the volume control on our family Mac with one click, something I have yet to manage without spending at least a few minutes looking for that rather elusive speaker icon. My toddler can already swipe open my iPhone, and this is a kid that still needs help putting on socks. As I watch my children grow up in a world where technology plays a predominant role in our lives, a world that seems to be changing at an astonishing pace, I cannot help but wonder how far we can go before it becomes too much.

I am the first one to admit that I love my smart phone and that because of it and every other new fangled technology gadget out there, many of my behaviours and habits have changed. A few years ago, I remember snickering when what must have been very (self-) important business people talked to themselves. I wondered how they could expose themselves to such ridicule by using an earpiece instead of bringing a phone up to their ear like us mere plebeians. Now, I feel only slightly ridiculous when I sit in my car at a red light and talk on my wire-free headset. Similarly, I depend on my phone’s bells and whistles for just about everything, from checking my emails and playing Sudoku to knowing what day to take out the trash.

The problem is that in the last few months I have started questioning this apparently inevitable trajectory to technological nirvana. When I see a two-year-old sitting quietly and playing on a smart phone, I get a glimmer that we may have gone too far in blindly accepting the beneficial effects of technology. Trust me, I understand why parents would be tempted to hand over their precious phones for the sake of a few minutes of peace. Who wouldn’t want a perfectly behaved child instead of a rambunctious two-year-old whose sole purpose in life is to make you run after him, tear your hair out and cry from sheer frustration? It does seem easier to relinquish a phone, iPad or whatever thingamabob they will invent next and be able to rest for a few minutes while your once impossibly energetic toddler becomes a sitting zombie.

It surprises me, nevertheless, how normal and frequent it has become to see children, some too young to walk or talk, playing on some sort of tablet or, worse yet, reading (more precisely, tapping) an eBook. While there are a few parents, educators and librarians out there who are sounding the alarm bells, most of us seem to act as though this shift towards the eBook is just a natural evolution of our society, “progress” as we seem to like to call it. This overall acceptance is perhaps why there has not been much research undertaken on eBooks so far. If up until now technology has mostly improved our lives, why believe that it could do quite the opposite?

Nonetheless, I would argue that it does not take a PhD in macro-nucleotide-techno-itis to figure out that swiping from screen to screen feels different than leafing through a book. Surely the experience is even more altered when you replace the diversity of traditional children’s books with one rigid unalterable device. With eBooks, children do not and cannot have the same tactile and cognitive experience as they have with paper books. They are even denied the ever-so-fun opportunity to tear a page out and watch their parents become completely hysterical about it. Yet, no matter how you Google it, there are very few studies out there that discuss the implications of replacing paper with a screen, even when it would be reasonable to assume that eBooks must alter in some way how our kids learn.

Perhaps one day a whole slew of experts will be able to (re)assure me that learning to read from a screen is better for the young, that the human brain is wired in such a way that eBooks make for a more enjoyable, easy and painless experience than traditional books. Until then I am going to remain skeptical. As one librarian recently told me, there might be a lot of “media hype” surrounding eBooks, but they are not and should not be considered as a foregone improvement to our children’s lives, yet. The jury is still out on whether or not this technological innovation is actually good for us, let alone for our children.

At the very least, eBooks have made me wake up and consider the role that technology is now playing in my life. Is my smart phone’s calendar really more convenient than my once well-loved wall calendar that allowed all of us, even my dear sweet husband, to see what day the recycling goes out to the curb? Am I less stressed out because I can now check my emails in the line-up at the grocery store all the while attempting to control my five-year-old who is obstinately throwing packages of gum into the cart? Do I feel more connected to the world today catching up with long lost friends on Facebook rather than spending my (very rare) free time reading my local newspaper? It is quite an eye opener to realize how much this “progress” has changed many of my habits in such a few short years. At this rate, my kids will soon be saying “them good ol’ days” to talk about the previous year. Heck, by the time my children are grown up, the people at iControl-The-World will probably have invented some kind of technological gizmo that reads minds, thus eliminating the need to talk.

All tongue-and-cheek aside, eBooks are a good reminder that we should perhaps tear our eyes away from our respective iSomethings every so often, observe our children and the world they are growing up in, and really think about what we want for them. In my case, I want my three little ones to know how to interact with more than just their phone or an electronic device when they grow up. I hope that they will be able to touch, experience and love actual things (like grass, dogs and, of course, books), not just virtual ones. For these reasons alone, I am going to keep eBooks at bay as long as possible, even though they may very well be “progress.”

Jeanne Petit-Humphries has a PhD in French Literature from the University of Toronto and is the proud mother of three children who love books as much as she does.