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Toddlers and technology

April 26, 2013

The cover of April’s Atlantic Monthly pictures a little girl engrossed in an iPad, with the provacative title: “The Touch-Screen Generation: What’s this technology doing to toddlers’ brains?” In our house, we take a bit of a laissez-faire attitude toward J’s use of our iPad and iPhones. We have a special folder on the iPad with his name on it, containing our toddler apps (probably about ten in total) and he’s generally allowed to use it when he asks. It’s even a suggested activity for times when I need him to stay put — like when I’m taking a shower — or when he’s nodding off in the car and we’re trying to preserve his once-a-day-sacred nap. Not to mention the most important use: long airplane or car rides.

I was anxious to read the article and find out just how badly I’m screwing up my two year old son’s brain.

The answer: nobody knows. The technology has been around only about as long as these toddlers. No longitudinal studies have been done. It’s tough to say if screen time is helping or hurting.

The article discusses how apps are developed for kids, and whether kids’ apps should always be “educational” (is running around the yard “educational” in an academic sense?). It also examines various parenting approaches to screen time. Interestingly, many app developers interviewed for the article have Orwellian rules related to their children’s use of iPads. Although one developer takes the opposite approach and throws the iPad in the toy bin with everything else. The idea? It becomes just another toy: Maybe some days his son decides to do the iPad for a few hours, but other days he tires of it and doesn’t pick it up at all.

In the end, the author comes out on the side of technology and moderation. Something I think we’ve achieved in our house. J has actually learned a great deal from his alphabet and counting apps. And he seems to understand that the iPad is an occasional toy, not something to do every day or for hours on end. Maybe as he gets older and asks for it more frequently, we’ll have to create stated limits, but for now I feel comfortable with the balance we have.

Here’s a link to the article — worth a read, either in screen or paper form. Perhaps you’ll have to wrestle the iPad from your child’s hands to have a look.

(P.S. – for parents who let their kids use the iPad, here’s a link to my — and J’s — favorite iPad app, a mix of fun and education.)

[image via here


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