Parenting Issue: Children & iPads

Blog on 6 May , 2015 by Raffi Bilek

I’m on TV!

WBAL-TV interviewed me for my take on toddlers using iPads (See the accompanying article at http://www.wbaltv.com/news/limiting-childs-screentime-difficult-battle-for-parents/32819168).  Unfortunately, I think they did a so-so job representing my opinions, so let me clarify a little bit my position on toddlers using iPads: I did say that I don’t think it’s necessary for toddlers to use iPads. That doesn’t mean I’m against it.  I don’t think it’s so terrible if parents allow their kids to use tablets, and certainly if they’re using it only (or maybe even primarily) for educational stuff and not for games.

The thing is, young children do not need extra help to learn things like shapes or numbers or letters.  (In fact, as alluring as it is, kids at age 2 or 3 really don’t even need to start learning the letters yet at all.)  Kids have been learning these things at the right pace for many many centuries before the iPad came along and they will continue to do so just fine now that it’s here.  What toddlers DO need is time to explore themselves, their world, and other people.  They need to learn what happens when they spill water on their shirt and how it feels.  They need to understand that they are individuals and can make choices, independent of mom or dad.  They need to develop the basic skills for relating to people – simple things like eye contact and recognizing emotions.  (How many people have you met that had any kind of education and could not name their shapes?  And how many highly educated people have you met with zero socials skills?  Right.)

I feel like the very short clips of me in this video put me squarely on the side of tablet naysayers.  It’s true that I am not a fan of toddlers using tablets (or any such technology, per the AAP guidelines mentioned in the video).  I don’t think it’s evil.  I can understand that some people will rely on it for (hopefully short) periods of babysitting and the like.  I doubt that will ruin their children.  But allowing our children to become as dependent on these gadgets as some of us are ourselves does not bode well for their development.  (This is also a little bit a of a poke for those of us who are glued to some kind of device all day to examine our tech habits – our kids will learn from what we do, not what we say.)  Kids at this age need time with loved ones, meaningful experiences, limits; they do not need technological training, counting primers, or more video stimulation.

I also believe that worries about children “falling behind” their peers in terms of technological adjustment are unfounded. If a two-year-old can figure out an iPad, so can a six or eight-year-old.  Their brains are still highly plastic at that time and receptive to learning new technologies (which will in all likelihood only continue to change between now and then), unlike, say, your grandmother, who is just figuring out how to send an e-mail.  You kids will learn how to navigate their digital world in due time (whether you like it or not) – so for now, I am very much of the opinion that young kids should be kept away from iPads and sent outside with a box of sidewalk chalk and some bubbles instead.

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