iPads are all the rage these days, being handed in schools, loaded with apps for learning and honing different skills, and they are even used to help autistic children communicate. On the other hand, you cannot avoid all the reports on toddlers becoming addicted to tablets and games lowering their attention span. In truth, an iPad or any other tablet can be a great resource for kids. There are various apps that can help your children learn to read, write, or do math in a fun interactive way. However, there are several mistakes people make when they let their children discover the wonders of touch screen.
A Tablet is Not a Substitute for Parental Attention
For one, an iPad is not a babysitter, or a substitute for your attention. In this busy, busy world many parents hardly have time to do their daily chores and spend quality time with their children. Tablets may seem a good alternative for sticking a child in front of the television and many parents let out a sigh of relief when they hand their child an iPad, buying some precious time for themselves in firm belief that their child is spending their time in a productive and educational manner.
The educational apps are there to help you help your child develop some cognitive processes or enhance their skills at reading, writing, spatial reasoning or maths, and not to do that instead of you. Social contact and interaction are very important part of the learning process and going through those motions is very important for a child’s social and emotional development as well.
Screen time- it applies to tablets too
This is especially true for younger children and toddlers, who are in a very impressionable period of their life. Toddlers are only beginning to develop their social skills and learning to communicate with people around them. It is not surprising that spending their time interacting with a colorful screen that obeys their every command does nothing towards developing their interaction skills with people and functioning in the real world. If you use this gadget with them, however, children can benefit both from interaction with you and the resources it has to offer.
Games, even educational ones, can be loads of fun and especially appealing to children because of their colorful design, interactivity and fast pace. On one hand they are good for honing hand-eye coordination and reasoning, but because they are so responsive they can also shorten children’s’ attention span. Kids can get used to colorful images exchanging quickly, a new picture available at every touch at the screen, but this also means that other things (not happening on tablets) will seem too dull and slow and a child will quickly lose interest. Let them play games, but be aware that screen time does not only apply to TV– it is of crucial importance when it comes to tablets too.
All Things in Moderation
It should also be noted that using a tablet as a substitute for other activities is probably not the wisest idea. Real building blocks will still help your child develop coordination, spatial and dimensional reasoning as well as a sense of balance much better than an app with virtual ones. Even though painting on a screen is much cleaner than actual finger painting, it provides only a fragment of stimuli. Sticking fingers in paint and painting with them stimulates your child’s sense of sight, smell, hearing and especially touch, feeling different textures of paper and paint and how they change when the two mix. This is a very important part of cognitive development and should not be thrown aside in the name of cleanliness.
This is not to say that you should hide your iPad in the closet, burn it or burry it in the yard lest it should corrupt your child. It can be a really great resource and tool for education and development, but all things should come in moderation- and also, under your supervision. Just like an episode of Dora the Explorer a day can be a fun and educational experience for your child, a marathon of the same (or any other) show will likely have more negative than positive effects. It is just the same with iPads and iPad apps.