Babies Using iPads

by Samantha on November 5, 2013

baby on computer

They can’t talk but they know how to swipe. An iPad, or similar tablet or smartphone, that is.

Perhaps not surprisingly, a recent survey revealed that 30% of children under the age of 2 use some type of a mobile device. Now: understanding that “use” is a relative term, the findings are still shocking, to say the least.

I am the first to say that I’m a tech aficionado and that my kids are fairly tuned into the latest gadgets. Irrespective, the fact that so many children who can’t even speak in full sentences are hitting up the tablet as a method of entertainment does, admittedly, give me pause. Is this a good thing? It depends.

What, exactly, are these babies looking at when they’re trying (often unsuccessfully) to swipe? Is it a primer on how to learn their ABC’s or is it a less-educational option, such as the latest viral video, hit TV show or similar? Therein lies the question.

As parents, we are the ones who should be the gatekeepers regarding what our kids are and are not viewing. No one will argue that young minds are impressionable, and the what goes into them at an early age can leave a lasting effect. This reality, however, is tempered by the fact that there are those times in a parent’s life where you just need something - anything - to keep that kid quiet. You’re frazzled and stressed, trying to get dinner going, laundry done or otherwise and the little one starts screaming. A tablet, smartphone or similar certainly seems tempting at this point because distraction is the name of the game if you want any hope of getting a few seconds of peace and quiet. Unfortunately, it’s a fine balance regarding how much we allow our kids to indulge in technology and where to draw the line and just say “no.” It’s a struggle and somewhat confusing for parents these days because in many instances, the iPad has replaced the book, so shouldn’t it go to follow that it’s okay for our little ones to turn virtual pages and swipe to their heart’s content? They’re learning, after all, right?

Yes; they are learning, if they are indeed reading but oftentimes they’re not. They’re often staring at the latest kiddie movie or show that’s streaming on Netflix or playing a preschool-targeted game. For the latter, it may be educational; many times it’s not.

Problematic? It depends.

No one is going to fault a parent for doing what they need to do to keep a child quiet. We’ve all had those moments where we hope that our little ones would just keep a lid on it for a few moments so that we could get something done. The problem arises when that distraction - in this case an iPad or similar tablet - becomes the norm, not the exception. How much is too much and where do we draw the line?

It’s hard to say these days as our standards have changed and our expectations regarding what’s “normal” has shifted. We’re a digital society; one that views screen interactions and virtual communications as commonplace. We’ve passed our collective love and dependence on technology onto our little ones, oftentimes with little thought. The consequences of doing so have resulted in a new generation of children who are not only dependent upon the digital screen, but who expect and crave it as well.

For today’s child, a book is now seen as an option, whereas just a few years ago it was the only choice. Reading as we know it now, has taken on a whole different form, through one’s ability to easily peruse and download thousands of book titles digitally, within seconds. Similarly, what was once considered the standard form of entertaining a bored baby or toddler - reading them a book, showing them pictures or playing a simple game with them - has, in many cases, been replaced by a screen.

There’s no choice but to accept the reality of our digital world, but let’s not throw in the digital towel and throw out the baby with the bathwater. We as parents still have control over what our kids do, see and how they behave.  Yes - there are more choices now available to them but this fact in and of itself shouldn’t preclude some of the more conventional, tried and true options out there.

It may now seem quaint to do so but curling up with our babies and an enticing picture book still has its merits. There are times when a “swipe” just doesn’t cut it.

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Image courtesy of http://reneewarren.com/ 

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