Expert: Kids’ Tablet Wows Need Parent Response

Originally published by ThinkerMedia: on February 17, 2012


A Nielsen survey just released shows that 77% (and increasing) of 12 year olds and younger kids in tablet-owning households play games, while 57% access “educational” apps. “But most of the games kids play are solitary, and many of those called “educational” apps have hardly been shown to have any such value, since there is no credible standard for that claim,” according to a leading Chicago child-psychiatrist Eitan Schwarz, M.D., also known as Dr. S.

At the same time, as if the home team might be heading for the play-offs, excitement grows in playgrounds of affluent and near-affluent communities the world over. But the buzz is not about a home team. It is about rumors of Apple’s pending launch of the iPad 3. Ever-younger fans — and not just the “geeky” crowd — are heatedly speculating and debating about what wonders The Wizard of Apple might unveil soon to wow them.

And they rightly want to be wowed, according to Dr. S: “Being wowed is healthy fun. It is a great spice of life, it is about Santa Claus, rainbows, birth, surprise parties, great performances, great trees. Parents can bond with kids when they are wowed together and should make the most of such opportunities. Friendships cement around sharing wows. People become closer and in love when bound by a wow,” he adds.

Do tablets deserve wows? “Yes, and we should teach kids why: They are awesome, handsome, fascinating tools with extraordinary powers to engage and interact; produced by human creativity, focused minds, talent and sweat, enabled by all the opportunities afforded in free societies,” advises Dr. S.

The doctor adds, “But most of the buzz and excitement, and most of the uses of tablets today are fluff, wasting time, money, and human potential. They are mostly about entertainment, and kids spend too much time on junk. As a society, we can do much more to align pop-technology to what kids really need. We need to educate, empower, and enable parentsto to find better uses for these wonderful tools: Improve family lives, values education, socialization skills, and credible education enrichment.”

There are other seamy sides to the wow coin. Poverty excludes many kids from the tablet wow crowd. There is no Wizard of Apple for them. When a wowed crowd turns into a mob, it is ugly and destructive: “Kids who cannot share wows are typically bullied. Being excluded, not sharing the wow, not participating because of depression, shyness, anxiety, or just plain lack of interest distances people,” according to Dr. S.

Dr. Schwarz recommends:

  • Do not give tablets to preschoolers for solitary play, and discourage excessive solitary play by all kids.
  • Treat the tablet as a family appliance with specific rules and keep it charging in a common area.
  • Limit and monitor older kids.
  • Purchase apps very carefully and understand their value.
  • Ask educators for advice about so-called “educational” apps.
  • Balance entertainment use with worthwhile growth opportunities like family relationships, socialization, values education and education enrichment.
  • Teach kids that having a tablet is a privilege that some kids cannot afford, so they need to be sensitive about showing off their prized possession.
  • The tablet acquisition wow is a high. Avoid seeking too many such experiences based on the possession of material things.

“Wow moments can be had every day, quietly, gently, warmly, joyfully, and mixed with awe, with the wonders of nature and people all around us. Children must be taught that those seemingly more ordinary, more reflective wows that nourish the human spirit are really satisfying and enduring and truly worth building their lives around,” advises Dr. S, the veteran doctor with over forty years in practice, himself a recent inventor of ZillyDilly, an iPad app.


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Article by Eitan ‘Dr. S®’ Schwarz, MD

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