Apple’s new iPad adds a universe of new applications to those already in iPhones on a larger, more accessible touch screen that include books, games, business tools, newspapers, presentation managers, a word processor.
This tablet is a serious tool for serious people. Before bringing it home, every parent must think through its impact on the kids and family life because the iPad also puts unprecedented interactive media power into children’s hands. Mobile, tactile, responsive, and intensely user friendly, the large screen sparkles with sharp colorful images and text.
“The iPad is the magical stuff kids (and the kids in us all) dream of as beautiful images can be instantly enlarged, shrunk, moved or made to appear and disappear,” according to child psychiatrist and author Dr. Eitan Schwarz.
“It is a brilliant piece of engineering and testament to our human talent. But in the 10+ years of media explosion into the lives of younger and younger children, there has been little systematic effort to guide parents.
Kids left to themselves consume media as they do junk food. The more media permeates a home, the more family life deteriorates and the kids are less happy. According to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll, 1/5 of kids 8-18 spend up to 19 hrs/d (including texting and multitasking) total media time. Studies show that media use is associated with poorer grades and family life and less reading and imaginative play. When parents set limits for 1/3 of youngsters, media consumption drops by only 1/3, showing that restriction is just not enough.
In his new book, “KIDS, PARENTS & TECHNOLOGY: A GUIDE FOR YOUNG FAMILIES,” Dr. S, gives parents tips to leverage their home-court advantage to make media a positive family life asset. “Parents should manage children’s media consumption as they do a meal plan.”
Dr. S believes there needs to be “an ongoing commitment to organizing kids’ media lives just as we manage nutrition.” Dr. S’ tips for parents include:
• The iPad Is a Powerful Appliance – Start thinking of the iPad as a family appliance that must
have positive values. Kids treat will treat it as toy, but the iPad is in reality an adult tool with
enormous power. Would you let your unsupervised young child use the telephone or oven?
Only devices with proven benefits belong in children’s hands.
• Take Charge – Have confidence and take charge. You can manage this important area of your
kids’ lives. Many parents too readily take a back seat and let kids take the lead. In what other
important area of life would they let that happen?
• Technology is Healthy – From infancy onwards, teach kids to appreciate technology as a
healthy and routine part of family life. Starting young, children will learn that using technology
is collaborative and social — and not an isolating solitary activity. Always join preschoolers or
younger kids using the iPad.
• Include the Whole Family – Create a new environment around the iPad and other media to
promote mutuality, fun, respect, and development for the entire family. It is large enough for
kids and parents to interact around it.
• Make the iPad a Positive Learning Tool – Just as you already shop for healthy food, harvest the
positive opportunities offered by its apps and online. For example, for every age group there
are wonderful opportunities for learning.
• Create Healthy Media Rules – Tailor healthy media diets into daily menus for each child to
provide development opportunities. For example, regularly require enough online time on
apps and online that enhance good values and education enrichment. Apply rules to your
own media use – be fully present with your kids, and do not text while parenting.