Why an iPad is NOT a Digital Pacifier

This article from Bloomberg deserves a comment or two. Let me break it down for you:

  • iPads are a popular Christmas wish list item. Check!
  • Some households with one iPad are planning on getting a second just for the kids. I actually know a family who has already done that.
  • Tablets can help kids learn to write. Ok.
  • A pediatrician in Boston says children under 2 should only use the iPad to display books. Hold the phone…

I have two comments about this part. First, the paragraph starts out by calling adults with tablet-related concerns as “child advocates.” Hey, wait a minute! I’m an adult with no tablet-related concerns, can I also call myself a child advocate?

Second, the pediatrician who made that comment was Gwenn O’Keeffe, a CEO of a health and communications company, among many other credentials that you can read about on The Huffington Post. Her statement intrigued me more than it alarmed me, so I went hunting for more of her research. In this article from the Pittsburgh Tribune, she says, “Little kids’ brain development needs to evolve un-interfered with. The more technology that is introduced at a young age, it disrupts how their brains are wired and how kids think and learn. Kids under 2 don’t understand what they’re using.”

I am not a pediatrician—nor am I a CEO of a company with financial interests in making regular appearances in print, online, radio, and TV—but I still don’t buy it. I’m sorry! I could very well be wrong (and biased), but it’s just that since starting this blog I know Stella definitely understands what she’s using. I wouldn’t continue doing it if I didn’t see positive results.

Everyone seemed to get a kick out of the viral video of the toddler frustrated with a magazine because she couldn’t zoom in on one of the pictures. But I bet if that same parent recorded that little girl again, it wouldn’t be a big deal because she has since probably played with it enough to learn the difference. I make this assumption because Stella once did a similar thing with an animal book shortly after we got the iPad (she expected the book to make sounds like her animal app), but she has long since gotten over that novelty (see video below):

(Note in the video that she signs the word “spider” when we find it in the book, which is an action she learned from an iPad app, thank you very much.)

So here are my final thoughts:

1. The person who coined the phrase “digital pacifier” has obviously not had a baby or an iPad before because if you’ve ever tried to leave your child (0-2) alone with the iPad, you’ll know that it’s impossible! If she’s not looking for immediate praise from me, she’s looking for me to help her out of some inevitable jam with one of the apps. She’s pretty skilled at navigating by herself, but she’s certainly not able to do everything independently.

2. An iPad should not be argued as a potential replacement for parent-child interaction or human contact no more than a Barbie doll or a scooter. It’s one tool in a box of many. (I bet if you kept your daughter from her favorite doll, she’d go crazy, too.) The American Association of Pediatrics has recommended limiting screen time for kids (TV or otherwise) for some time now. Whether it “disrupts how their brains are wired” or not, that recommendation just seems obvious enough that it doesn’t really have to be said. Most kids get bored with playing the same toy after a while—even with the iPad. (Trust me.) If your child plays too long with any *one* thing, it’s probably time to mix it up.

3. We need to stop treating “the iPad” as if it means the same thing to everyone. It’s what you put IN your iPad that gives it its essence. Some people might use it mostly for a second TV device, while others might load it with these fun apps for babies and toddlers. One app might rot your brains, while another might stimulate it. I would love to have my girl Etel from SignShine visit us 3 days a week to sign songs with Stella. But in the mean time, the iPad is a wonderful tool to bring her into our home without requiring her physical presence or my husband to put on a shirt.

With that said, I’m signing off with Stella’s favorite book:
Good night, Minnesota.

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Posted on November 29, 2011, in 18 months, commentary, video and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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