This week, the iPad turns two. How time flies! And what a difference it has made. The magical device has captured the imagination and marketplace instantly, engaging millions of people in thousands of new and helpful activities. And its utility just keeps growing, almost without limits.Eitan Schwarz, MD, an Illinois child psychiatrist, inventor of ZillyDilly for the iPad, and author of “Kids, Parents & Technology: A Guide for Young Families”, has a familiar reaction, “The iPad is awesome. A wonderful demonstration of human talent, American leadership, and the power of globalization. Thank you, Apple, for brilliant vision and engineering.”
But according to Dr. Schwarz, also known as Dr. S, there is one important limit that underscores a major general problem, “While amazingly helpful in so many other human endeavors, digital media has much further to go in benefitting healthy family life and development of children. Just look around in restaurants, malls, planes: Kids as young as two or three isolated and quietly burying their faces in these devices. Older kids are spending up to an average of eight hours a day with media.”
There is credible evidence that isolated overuse of media is a symptom of existing psychological distress. However, according to Dr. S, “There is a lot of negativity right now, but too little research in how to improve things for normal kids. For instance, I have seen repeatedly that sometimes these digital distractions may actually prevent unpleasant and difficult conflicts and are harmless ways to reduce stress.”
Dr. S advises parents to use common sense and discourage isolated overuse of digital media. For preschoolers, solitary media use should be minimized. Kids need interaction even when they seem to shun it. Parents can use digital media to interact, teach about self-discipline and time management, the importance of balance between entertainment and other activities, the richness of the Internet, and the joys of collaboration and family life.
Dr. S takes a positive long view in inventing ZillyDilly, “Parents really want to learn and become empowered. But they need credible, systematic, comprehensive help, including good guidance and effective tools, and there’s been too little of that. Technology is here to stay – let’s treat the iPad as family appliance that really benefits kids and families.”
“So, yes, Happy Birthday iPad and congratulations, Apple. We are learning better to use you better!” he adds.