iPad overload? 77% of parents polled believed that using tablets was beneficial for their children

Screen time can be bad for young children, but it’s not all terrible news for parents who rely on tablets to occupy their offspring

“I recently watched my sister perform an act of magic,” says Nick Bilton at The New York Times. Bilton was sitting in a restaurant with his sister and her two children, ages 4 and 7, and the chattering, fighting kids were keeping the older siblings from conversing. “Like a magician quieting a group of children by pulling a rabbit out of a hat, my sister reached into her purse and produced two shiny Apple iPads,” handing one to each child. The kids fell “eerily” silent for the rest of the meal.

This is hardly a unique occurrence. In restaurants, churches, and other public places all over the U.S. (and probably the developed world), harried parents pull out their tablets or smartphones for a spell of peace and quiet for them and any other adults around them. And, like Bilton’s sister, many of these parents feel “slightly guilty.” Are iPads and other magical child-quieting tablets dangerous for a child’s development?

“I did not have an answer,” Bilton writes, “and although some people might have opinions, no one has a true scientific understanding of what the future might hold for a generation raised on portable screens.” Worse, says Mat Honan at Wired, “it seems like there is simply no way of knowing.”

 

The American Academy of Pediatrics is unambiguous about time spent with screens. It says any at all is bad for children under a certain age…. We made an effort to follow AAP guidelines and prevent her from getting any screen time at all before she was 2. But honestly? On long flights, we’ve loaded upSesame Street on the iPad before takeoff. Parenting is hard…. And, really, is there harm in an app? In the age of the educational app, those AAP guidelines seem, well, quaint. [Wired]

Tablet manufacturers are much less conflicted than parents, of course. You can buy everything from a tablet PC made especially for toddlers to a special iPhone case designed specifically so your infant child can play with your portable touchscreen device without breaking your expensive gadget or ordering thousands of dollars worth of apps. And even some early-childhood educators aresurprisingly sanguine about tablets for tots.

Three kindergarten classes in Australia are participating in study of “the educational benefits of iPad use for pre-school children,” says Matthew Dunn at Australia’s The Standard. Specifically, they want to know if using iPad apps to create art, study creative crafts like puppetry, and read e-books can help kids prepare for school. “There have been past studies examining young children’s use of iPads and smart phone technology but this is the first to link the use with literacy and numeracy through creative applications,” says Sandra Gattenhof at the Queensland University of Technology.

If you want a “long-term double-blind study to prove an interactive smartphone app is different than a TV show,” which is probably bad for kids, well, too bad, says Wired‘s Honan. “The first generation of toddlers that played with iPhones is not even out of elementary school. A child born the day the iPhone shipped would be kindergarten age today. We are all fumbling through this new world, and nobody knows what the long-term implications are.”

Actually there has been some potentially relevant research, and it’s surprisingly hopeful for iPad-wielding parents, says the Times‘ Bilton. Assuming, of course, parents pick the right apps.

 

A report published last week by the Millennium Cohort Study, a long-term study group in Britain that has been following 19,000 children born in 2000 and 2001, found that those who watched more than three hours of television, videos, or DVDs a day had a higher chance of conduct problems, emotional symptoms and relationship problems by the time they were 7 than children who did not. The study, of a sample of 11,000 children, found that children who played video games — often age-appropriate games — for the same amount of time did not show any signs of negative behavioral changes by the same age. [New York Times]

But experts agree pretty unanimously that, at least at the dinner table, talking (or even drawing with crayons) is better than zoning out over an iDevice, both for developing social skills and even learning to cope with or grow from boredom.

 

“I have no fear that my child will only be able to form relationships with avatars,” says Wired‘s Honan. Nor, like some parents, “do I think that it’s imperative to dunk her in the digital stream from an early age” so she’ll be able to swim better as she grows. Like pretty much everything else, “there’s some sort of weird balance we have to fumble our way into finding.” But here’s a cautionary tale:

 

Last year, we took our daughter to Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, a free concert in Golden Gate Park. We met a few other parents, who had toddlers of their own. Before the band started playing, one began throwing a tantrum. He wanted his iPod Touch, and so he got it. Then the Preservation Hall Jazz Band began to play, and all the children began to dance and laugh and play in the grass. Except for the one who sat on the blanket, staring at a screen, oblivious to all else.

Should Your 2-Year-Old Be Using an iPad?

From “Baby Touch: Peekaboo” to “Moo, Baa, La La La!,” iPad apps for babies are flooding the market. Developers say the apps are educational, and busy parents know that a digital babysitter can buy them a few minutes of valuable time. But is the iPad a healthy thing for young kids?

Apple’s iTunes now stocks more than 700 apps for children, including ones that promise to “develop hand-eye coordination and focusing skills in young babies” or teach “fine motor skills” to infants “from 0 to 2.5 years old.”

As Healthland reported on Tuesday, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has advised parents — again — to eliminate screen time for children under 2, citing concerns about language delays and disrupted sleep. The academy’s new report drew on studies showing that TV, whether it’s the parent or the child watching, interferes with “talk time” between parent and child, which is crucial to language development.

Does the TV effect apply to iPads too? That’s not clear. “We just don’t have the data yet,” says Dr. Ari Brown, a pediatrician and member of the AAP.

Perhaps it depends on how you’re using it. Tablets used like a TV should fall under the same guidelines, says Tanya Altmann, a Los Angeles-based pediatrician and author of the best-selling parenting book Mommy Calls. However, she doesn’t rule out the possibility that interactive apps may have some value for toddlers. “In some ways, applications are just newer versions of the game that we used to play when we were kids — you tap the cow and it says ‘moo,’” she says.

But even apps that simulate conventional toys don’t teach children the crucial skills that come from physically engaging the world in three dimensions, says Dr. Dimitri Christakis, director of the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at Seattle Children’s Hospital. He points to iPad apps that replicate building blocks and Legos. “Surely we would not want that to substitute for actually getting blocks and building something,” he says. “This is not how the real world works, and babies do need to learn how the real world works.”

So, the jury’s still out on tablets for toddlers, but research suggests that educational apps may enhance the learning experience of slightly older children. A recent study funded by the Department of Education showed that the PBS Kids iPhone app “Martha Speaks” boosted 3-to-7-year-olds vocabularies by as much as 31% over the course of two weeks.

Rose Luckin, a professor of learner-centered design at the University of London, has found that tablet-type devices can actually spark the sort of social interaction central to the learning process. She found that 5- and 6-year-olds who recorded school activities on tablets and replayed them for their parents tended to learn better. “One of the key benefits of technologies such as the iPad is that they can become a focus for conversations between parents and children,” she says. “If the device is right in the middle of the family, in the kitchen, in the lap, then as a parent, you’re much more able to have those kinds of shared experiences.”

In other words, tablets might not be all bad if they generate “talk time,” rather than replace it. As with anything else, says Luckin, moderation and common sense are key. “If a child just sits all day playing on the iPad on her own, then I’m not sure she’s getting the benefits,” she says. “My argument about the value of these devices is that they can add to parental time, not take away from it.”

When parents are busy, though, the best option may simply be to turn the gadgets off, rather than letting kids use them unattended, says Altmann. “We know parents can’t be with their children 24/7,” she says. “But don’t forget that when we were kids, our moms would just give us toys to play with on the ground and say, ‘Play.’ Just give them some time to explore occasionally on their own. They don’t have to have external stimulation every second of the day.”

Read more: http://healthland.time.com/2011/10/20/no-screen-time-for-2-year-olds-do-ipad-apps-count/#ixzz2PFlZx5M

http://news.yahoo.com/ipad-bad-children-103000808.html

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