iPads are either better than books or worse than second-hand smoke depending on which parenting expert you talk to. The truth of the matter is there still isn’t any long-term research to back other extreme and parents should simply use a healthy dose of common sense before handing over tablets to toddlers.
A Wall Street Journal writer discussed this issue today that seems to have a relatively balanced view. Ben Worthen points out in the below video that more than half of kids aged eight and younger have access to an iPad or a tablet like it.
Letting a kid play with an iPad doesn’t mean you can stop being a parent. It just means they have another way to learn and explore their world. The iPad isn’t any different from other technology that’s freaked out experts of the years. Leaving a kid alone in a playpen with an iPad all day probably isn’t the best idea, but is it any worse than doing the same with a TV in the background? As the case has been for decades, the gadgets aren’t what we should worry about, it’s the parents.
As he mentions above, him and his wife allow their four-year-old son to use an iPad. They are particularly concerned about the “flow experience,” which is a technical way of describing how kids sometimes zone out when playing iPad games.
So what’s different about an iPad compared to an iPhone or computer? For one, toddlers can’t really do much with a Mac or PC. Sure, some kids enjoy playing some computer games or watching video, but it’s pretty tough to operate a computer without being able to type and read. iPads offer a tactile experience that’s much more natural than using a mouse and keyboard. The iPad’s relatively large display is more immersive than those found on smaller devices, such as the iPhone. This also means toddlers can swipe and tap around for longer periods without accidentally hitting the home button or accidentally interrupting gameplay by hitting menu icons.
2,3, or 4 can’t use a keyboard or mouse.
The iPad is an incredible learning and communications device. So why would we even think of leaving it out of the mix? Toys are incredibly high-tech these days. Trains talk, toys work with specific apps and stuffed animals synchronize with web accounts. Yes, this is a lot different than when I was my son’s age, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
The WSJ reporter correctly observes that the iPad is much more interactive than televisions. That’s a great thing in my book and one of the reasons I don’t mind letting my one-year-old son play with my iPad. Sure, there are parents that don’t let their kids anywhere near gadgets, but that’s not my family. My son watches short videos, jams with DrumMeister and bangs on virtual pianos thanks to various iPad apps. He also plays real drums, bangs on our real piano and plays outside. FaceTime is perhaps his favorite app as he gets to virtually visit each of his four grandparents several times per week. But he also spends plenty of time with them in real life.