Ipads and Toddlers : Babysitters or Brainfood?

Just scan around any family restaurant or shopping centre and it is clear to see ‘Times are a changin’. Toddlers as young as one can be seen scrolling through Iphone Apps, playing with Ipads and navigating their way through complex web sites and it seems we as a society are still divided on whether or not this is best practice.

This controversial topic has been bouncing around in the media for quite some time. Although not a new debate, the issue of parents using technology to ‘babysit’ their children has now reached fever pitch, with our heavy dependence on Ipads, Iphones and other portable ‘Smart’ devices achieving a record breaking level. A recent U.S marketing poll revealed the ‘average’ user to be spending no less than an hour a day surfing and pinching our touch screens.

The ‘for’ camp are all about keeping up with the times and preparing our children for a techno dependent future, and yes there are also the damn ‘lazy’ ones who think that Ipads are the new ‘pacifiers’. Those against are screaming ‘Bad Parenting’ with the implication of negligence and a call for parents to spend more quality time with their children.

My tongue is now the size of an emaciated Tic Tac. It has been bitten too many times, during too many ‘silly’; conversations between groups of parents, so now it is my time to weigh in.   Am I qualified to do so, well probably not- I am no expert, but I am a mum of a toddler and I have also experienced the consequences of ‘parental choice’ (positive and negative) in the classroom, so from both ends of this loud and opinionated spectrum.

After hearing one particularly ignorant and stupid parent say ‘It’s disgusting that kids are allowed to just play on computers at school instead of doing proper work’ it was time to unleash some truths…well my truths anyway.

Firstly, we need to wake up and realise that Ipads and Smart devices and technologies in general are not a choice, they are now a necessity. No longer do we as a society have a ‘choice’ as to whether we participate, they are our present and our future. Our school Frameworks and curriculums have had provisions for Technology outcomes since the late 1990’s, and our current Australian Curriculum clearly defines the place of essential technology skills as paramount in any contemporary education system.  It seems those that lack skills in this areas are the greatest opponents of change.

Children in Kindy/Prep/Reception are currently using Ipads and Smart boards everyday as part of their core Literacy and Numeracy lessons, surprise, surprise- they are not playing candy crush or updating Instagram! One could suggest that it was be negligent ‘not’ to allow your child opportunities to experience technology before school age. Success during the schooling years will be highly dependent on their ability to use these devices to their advantage. Technology is the tool we use to facilitate learning, just as a painter uses a paintbrush and a butcher uses a knife.

Of course the benefits of Ipads can only be realized when used appropriately. If your toddler is checking out Miley Cyrus trying to ‘wreck another ball’ on Youtube, then of course little will be gained here. If the Ipad is purely another way to transmit a movie or cartoon while mum or dad scroll through Facebook in peace, then again, there is no value. It is all about choosing educational content. Apps are the ‘new’ books, and if you’ve bothered to look lately you too would be blown away at what the children now have at their fingertips. There are many Apps directly linked to curriculum outcomes including a great Aussie series from the makers of the high;y successful Reading Eggs Program ‘Eggy Phonics, Eggy Maths etc. I’m not sure about you, but I have never told a child they are spending too much time reading, and learning!  ‘Hey kids, put that book away’ mmmmm…..not lately.

I could also talk for hours about the proven benefits of Ipads and Apps for children with Special Needs, in particular Non- Verbal Disorders such as ASD and Vision Impairment

There are those that say ‘It’s creating a generation of people who lack communication skills’. Well this is very true, we’ve all encountered groups of teenagers sitting in the same room instant messaging each other and giggling to their screens….me included, not the teenage part of course. Is the device to blame or the way in which it is being used? Or perhaps we’ve dropped the ball in explicitly teaching our children social skills and face to face etiquette such as greeting people, and polite conversation?

It is all about contents and limits. There are thousands of exceptional educational Apps which when used ‘with’ your child, can be a fabulous way to spend some quality time together. Another point that I hear spouted often is ‘Parents shouldn’t be shoving their children in front of computers, they should playing them’. It is absolutely ridiculous and irresponsible for parents to ‘occupy’ every minute of their child’s life. The development of Independence and independent play skills are vital, and this means giving them ‘unstructured’ time to be in their own space, playing by their own rules for a little while. Children who have been over managed, over parented and overscheduled stick out like Rudolph’s nose in a classroom setting. They are the ones who cannot work independently and have poorly developed problem solving skills or put simply the ‘needy ones’. But that is a blog for another day!

Anyway, end of rant. You have probably guessed that my own son is allowed to use our Ipad on a regular basis. I feel it is my duty to provide him with essential ‘life’ skills, and whether you like it or not…using technology is one of them.




5 thoughts on “Ipads and Toddlers : Babysitters or Brainfood?

  1. I agree too. Our world is full of new technology and is undated on a daily basis, I for one am totally blown away by how quickly it is all evolving, example! I just purchased a smart TV, and what they can’t do isn’t worth talking about. But I can assure you that my 12 year old new exactly how to navigate through it, unlike his mother lol. Our children must have regular exposure to this technology to keep up, the earlier the better as far as I am concerned or they will be left behind very quickly.

    • I still think I’m clever when I’m able to successfully pull the coloured av cords in and out! … And I guess many people are intimidated by the pace at which technology is thundering along, but despite how bad we are, we owe it to the kids to atleast keep our toes on the water. I still remember being blown away by my own granddad who taught him self the ‘internet’ in his 60’s just so that he could keep up with the world and not get left behind

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