Notes on Parenting

Insights for parenting babies, toddlers, teens, and young adults.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Are iPads Appropriate for Children?

With iPads and other tablets appearing in growing numbers of households across America, more and more children are coming into contact with what was originally a high-tech gadget for adults. Many parents are already concerned about the amount of time their children spend exposed to screens and technology, while others embrace technology as a way to both entertain and educate their kids. It seems inevitable that a certain number of kids will spend some amount of time using iPads despite some parents' concerns, but is it appropriate?

For adults, iPads are a convenient, lightweight means to have a computer on the go. Users can read, work, and play on these unique devices, and many find them to be positive additions to their personal and professional lives.

Children, on the other hand, generally don't require on-the-go access to email and other functions most adult iPad users do. For the average child, the iPad is usually no more than a new game device, where they can engage with videos, pictures, and activities on a bright high-resolution screen. It is for this reason that many object to children using iPads; if there is no need for kids to use them, why expose them to more screen-time than necessary? After all, they say, children already get so much digital media just by living in the modern world, it is irresponsible to increase their odds of becoming dependent on it.

That is not to say that iPads can't have a positive impact on the lives of children. For example, many schools have incorporated iPads into the classroom as a new tool for education. A recent study actually showed that students who used iPads were more receptive to learning and scored higher on literacy tests. It makes sense: for today's tech-savvy youth, the opportunity to use a fun new gadget would automatically make learning more appealing. Not only that, but education apps provide students with immediate feedback and engagement, which teachers cannot always offer. Students in the study who learned using iPads versus traditional methods outperformed their peers on every aspect of testing. (ITProPortal)

iPads have also been given to autistic children to help them communicate better with a world they often feel disconnected from. With apps created especially for their needs, autistic kids are able to engage with their technology in order to learn and engage better with their environment. iPads, with their intuitive design and orderly layout help kids with special needs to work without becoming distracted and connect with material they might otherwise miss.

It seems, then, that iPads can be great tools for children to use in the classroom. But what about outside of the classroom? With parents busier than ever, iPads provide an easy way to keep kids entertained for hours on end. Increased numbers of apps for children, not to mention the TV shows, video clips, and other media readily available on an iPad make it a toy most children don't want to stop using. And while having a toy that will keep your child occupied while you get everything done is appealing to many parents, sitting a child – or a toddler, or a baby – down with an iPad may not be in their best interest.

Study after study has demonstrated that today's kids are growing ever-more dependent on technology to function. A 2010 New York Times series chronicled the effect of increased technology use on our brains and our children's; parents who allow their children to spend their free time hooked up to technology, like iPads, risk setting them up for future problems with distraction, impatience, and forgetfulness. Our brains – and especially children's brains – need time to rest and grow, which they cannot have when plugged in with the constant bright lights, alerts, and interruptions of modern technology. If young brains are constantly fed new, instant information, they are left no time to retain or examine any of it, or imagine new ideas. (New York Times)

Like most aspects of parenting, the real answer lies in what works for each individual child and family. Most parents and professionals agree that the less time children spend using screens and devices like iPads the better; children – especially the very young – need to spend time not plugged in, and those who don't grow up with a dependance on technology are better off emotionally, socially, and physically. However, occasional monitored use of an iPad is by no means harmful for a child, and can even be positive for education. Like any other technology for children, the key is supervision and moderation.

This guest post is contributed by Ella Davidson of CNBC featured website, She says, "Turn to this trusted couponing and deals website for authoritative information on how to save money."

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