Done wrong, an iPad can be cerebral junk food to your child. Done right, it’s a magical looking glass into a world of discovery. Our family had to experiment on our own offspring. We didn’t have a choice. There are no scientific studies on whether iPad usage accelerates or impedes child development. Until the science is done, our family (and perhaps yours) are the cutting edge of research. My 2 1/2 year old has used an iPad for nearly two years. We monitored what worked and what didn’t; making adjustments on the way. We’ve learned a lot. It boils down to five principles that can make all the difference.
The 5 Rules
1. Tablets are for two
When a toddler uses an iPad you must be there observing and interacting the entire time. This is hard. Tablets are the best electronic babysitters ever invented. A child might sit there lost in the “10-inch gaze” for days. This tempts weary caregivers to take a much needed break. Don’t. Tablet time = together time.
The results of our real-world experience are clear: Tablet time alone yields poor results, even with the best educational apps. However, with an engaged parent alongside, even a non-educational game can become a wonderful learning experience. The other day we were playing Angry Birds together and saw an intro scene of the pigs putting on an old-style Japanese outdoor play. This triggered a discussion about kabuki theater, what emotions the masks represent and how an alternate tonal scale can make different sounding music. That can’t happen if you’re not there.