To iPad or not to the iPad, that is the question. At least for parents of the digital age. Whether you are a parent of a newborn, toddler, preschooler, or school age child, the question is whether the child should use iPad (and how much!), is becoming increasingly relevant, especially with similar-aged kids thronging around tablets in restaurants, at concerts, sporting events and almost anywhere where children and adults gather. In fact, the few secluded places where you don’t see masses of digitally oriented kids are the ones that are child oriented: the playground or the pool.
Is it good for our children? Should your child use an iPad? Or should you avoid it?
Answer: yes. Like, like, something like. May be. Moderately.
Everyone seems to have an opinion about the iPad. We have people who claim that the use of tablets children younger age is equivalent child abuse, and those who believe they can be used for educational purposes.
Even American Academy of Pediatrics is a bit baffled to update its longstanding policy that those two and younger should avoid screen time at all costs for the more granular approach we live in the digital world, and that the content itself should be judged, not the device that contains the content. This sounds good, but not really a practical guide.
The kids must be bored
Let’s start with something that is not obvious to everyone: it’s good when a child is bored. This applies to two-year-olds, six-year-olds, and twelve-year-olds. The iPad should not be the only remedy for boredom. There are far better ways to respond than handing an iPad to a child.
It’s not about the treatment. It’s about hunting for medicine. Children should stretch their creative muscles and use their imagination. They can do this by playing with dolls, drawing with crayons, building with play-do or Legos, or any of hundreds of other non-digital games. Thus, they not only pursue their creativity, they learn more about their own interests.
Children need to interact with other children
Imagine a world where every time a toddler argued with another child over a toy, they were both given pill . When will they ever learn how to get upset, how to overcome conflict, and how to share? Here are some of the concerns child psychologists have when they warn against the use of pills. The question is not only how much (or little) the child learns on the tablet, but also that they don’t teach using a tablet.
Children learn through play. And an important element of this is interaction. Children learn by interacting with the world, from learning to open a door by turning a knob to learning how to deal with frustration when a stubborn friend takes their favorite toy or refuses to play their favorite game.
One of the things these two concepts have in common is how they crowd out key elements of a child’s learning and development. Not only is using an iPad harming a child—in fact, using an iPad can be good—is that time with an iPad can take away other vital lessons a child needs to learn.
While kids around the iPad are social in the sense that they are together, they are not social in the sense of playing with each other. This is especially true when each child has their own device and is thus locked into their own virtual world. This time around, the iPad is taking away time that can be spent playing outdoors, using your imagination to protect an imaginary castle, or simply telling each other stories.
And this is just as true for a single child as it is for a group of children. When a child playing with iPad it doesn’t have the tactile feel of opening a book and touching the letters on a page. They don’t build a fort with sheets and chairs or bake an imaginary cake for their doll.
It’s this learning bias that can be the real danger of the iPad when it’s used too much.
Learning with iPad
The revised American Academy of Pediatrics screen recommendations come as new research shows how apps can be as effective as real-life reading lessons in children under 24 months of age. Unfortunately, research in this area is still very limited and there isn’t much in educational applications other than reading.
In comparison, the study mentioned that television programs such as Sesame Street typically don’t provide educational benefits until a child is 30 months old. This is around the same time that the child learns to interact with the television by reciting the answers to the questions asked on the show. It looks like the iPad can generate some of the same interactions that are so important for learning at a younger age, demonstrating its potential both as a learning tool and as a good shopping for parents.
All in moderation
My wife’s favorite quote is «everything in moderation.» We live in a black and white society where people often deal with absolutes, but in reality the world is very gray. The iPad can be a barrier to a child’s learning, but it can also be a real boon. The answer to the riddle lies in moderation.
As the father of a five-year-old who wrote about the iPad before my daughter was born, I paid special attention to the topic of children and tablets. My daughter got her first iPad at 18 months old. It was not a conscious decision to introduce her to the wonderful world of digital entertainment and education. Instead, she got her first iPad because I noticed that the old one I intended to sell had small crack on the screen . I knew it would decrease the value so I decided to wrap it in protective case and let her use it.
My rule of thumb before she was two was no more than an hour. This hourly limit included both TV and iPad. When she was two, and then three, I slowly increased it to an hour and a half, and then two hours. I have never been strict about this. If one day she had a little more than her limit, I just made sure that we did other things the next day.
At five, my daughter is still not allowed to have an iPad in the car unless we go on a long trip. If we drive around the city, she is allowed dolls, books or other toys. Basically, she has to use her imagination to entertain herself. This also applies to the dinner table, whether we are at home or in a restaurant. These are the times when we communicate as a family.
it our regulations. And it’s important to have rules, but you shouldn’t feel like you have to follow someone else’s rules. The real key to this puzzle is understanding that (1) iPad time is not a bad time, (2) kids should learn and play with other kids, and (3) kids should learn to play alone without a digital babysitter.
If you’d rather give your child an iPad at the dinner table so you and your spouse can enjoy each other’s company, there’s nothing wrong with that! After all, don’t we all hate the man who thinks that everyone should raise their child the same way they raise their child? Instead of limiting your child’s use of the iPad at the table, perhaps you can limit it after school until the time they get to the dinner table.
How to use iPad and how much time to spend with it?
Instead of thinking of it as hard and fast rules, think of iPad usage as a unit of time. If you don’t mind your child playing with the iPad at the dinner table, consider it a unit of iPad use. Maybe they get a second iPad device after shower and before bed. On the other hand, the time between getting home and lunch can be devoted to play time, and the time between lunch and shower can be devoted to homework. Or vice versa.