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iPads and Pre-schoolers

Categories: Parenting

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Around Christmas time my step-brother introduced our three year old son to Angry Birds. For Nate, it was love at first sight. From that moment on, the iPad became a coveted item in our house, and we’ve gotten to the point where Nate asks to play with it every single day.

There’s something about how much he loves it, how excited he gets when we hand it to him and how engrossed in the screen he becomes that makes me uncomfortable, somehow. This must be the way our parents felt when my brother and I spent hours playing Super Mario Bros. on the Nintendo when we were kids. They didn’t quite understand why it captivated us so much, and wondered if it was good for us to play with it so much. My brother and I lived a pretty balanced life, and we also had a lot of time to do other things like play outside and read books and interact with people in real life rather than just on a screen. This is what Graham and I want for Nate, too.

On several occasions I’ve thought about doing a little digging around online to see what the professionals think about pre-schoolers using devices like iPads, but thought twice because I was convinced I’d learn that they have no place in the lives of small children; the result of my research would surely do nothing but amplify my guilt over allowing him to play with it in the first place. Instead, what I discovered is that due to the relative newness of tablet technology, there are few conclusive studies available for parents like me to consult. I did find a useful article in the Wall Street Journal, called “What Happens When Toddlers Zone Out with an iPad” that captured very well just what concerns me about Nate’s use of the iPad:

Some parents readily share a table with their children, citing the many apps marketed as educational tools. Some do not. Still other families turn to it as a tool of last resort to entertain and appease children on plane and car trips.

In the list of parental worries about tablet use: that it will make kids more sedentary and less sociable. There’s also the mystery of just what is happening in a child’s brain while using the device.

While I’m not worried about Nate becoming sedentary (he plays outside year-round almost every day) or less sociable (a less shy kid you’ll never meet), I do wonder about how the iPad could affect his behaviour. Sometimes he cries for it. Giving it up is a challenge. We tell him that if he acts out he won’t be playing it at all. We use a timer to alert him that his time with it is up. He does play educational games like Super Why and his hand-eye co-ordination is incredible for a three year old. All things in moderation, I suppose.

Nate iPod

Do your kids use an iPad or tablet? What has your experience with it been like?

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One comment so far...

  • I feel that allowing children to spend so much time on these type on play and learning time we take away their imagination. They no longer have to come up with things to keep them busy and using their imagination to entertain themselves busy. They do not usually value the item if it is an everyday activity. I found that when my children were young that they really had an advantage over the kids who had all the latest toys and gadgets They learned to take the most simple of things and make games and activities for themselves. Now as two Engineers I find them saying that they never really missed all the stuff other kids had. It was more fun trying to make their own fun and that they see the value in how they were raised. I do not feel there is any problem with letting children use these types of electronics, as long is they do not become the only way they play and interact.

    Tracy  |  April 14th, 2013 at 3:18 pm