By Zunammie Keren
My 4 year old just loves his iPad and he uses it a lot. He learned how to swipe to turn it on and find YouTube before he could talk. My husband and I are both gadget lovers and so we encouraged his use of the iPad. If fact, for me it became an excellent way to distract him in those times when I just needed 5 minutes to use the bathroom in peace and quiet. I wasn’t at all concerned about his regular use of the iPad until he started pre-school and one day his teacher sternly warned us parents not to let our children use electronic tablets too much. That’s when the question hit me like a brick – am I letting my son spend too much time on his iPad?
As I do want to be the best mother possible to my son, with this question looming over my head I had to closely examine his use of the iPad and how much time he spends on it everyday. I certainly did not intent to ban him from using it, but I wanted to make sure that he has balance in his social activities and the iPad is not the center of his attention at all times. So I came up with some strategies on how best to regulate his iPad use and I want to share them with you, as so far they have been very effective.
The first thing I did was to allocate a dedicated time for him to watch his iPad everyday. As he is now in pre-school the best time for this turned out to be just after his evening shower but before his bedtime. He showers at about 6:30 and goes to bed by 7:30pm / 8pm so that gives him just over an hour to fully immerse himself into his iPad apps and YouTube videos, which I think is very reasonable and fair.
On weekends, holidays and when we go on trips I am more liberal with this arrangement so he will typically get to spend more time on his iPad then if he wants to. He doesn’t always want to however, and I take that to be a sign that he is growing up to be the well-rounded young man that I want him to be after all.
Learning Apps and Videos
The next thing I did was to make sure that my son was actually learning as well as having fun on his iPad. It’s all well and good to play games and watch funny videos but in these early years it is important to expose children to as much educational information as possible and tablets are a great way to do just that.
There is a plethora of good quality educational apps for children like the Fish School HD App or the Cookie Monster’s Challenge (both of which I love) that you can download onto your child’s iPad or tablet so that they will have a wide variety to choose from and be able to learn something while they are having fun. At the last count I had over 20 of these fun learning apps downloaded but I know of moms who have a lot more.
YouTube has a lot of great educational videos that are also entertaining but you have to exercise A LOT of caution when you let your child watch videos on YouTube as even with all the parental controls you will be shocked at some of the adult content that still manages to find its way to your child’s tablet screen. What I do like about YouTube is that there are channels like Busy Beavers and Brain Candy TV that are dedicated to providing educational children’s videos and many of them have tons of videos that can keep your child engaged (and learning) for a long time.
Outdoor Activities and Games
To make sure that my son really is having a balanced childhood I ensure that he spends lots of time outdoors, running, playing and doing more traditional kid activities that do not involve any electronic devices at all. Fortunately for me he absolutely loves being outside and so I don’t have to coerce him at all to spend more time outdoors.
On weekends and holidays when there is no school, chances are that you will find him out in the backyard playing games and having epic fun with his imaginary friends and I wouldn’t have it any other way. If you have a child who doesn’t want to go outside or if you need some inspiration for outdoor games that your child can play, you can check out this great article I found that has 27 fun outdoor games both you and your child can enjoy.
In the end it is all about balance. Was my son spending too much time on the iPad before I implemented the strategies above? Perhaps, but I am sure that Steve Jobs and Bill Gate parents thought that they were spending way too much time on those silly computer things too. Like I said, balance is the key but our children are growing up in the technological age and so they need to be exposed to the high tech devices that are available. How else will they be able to improve on them for future generations?
Taken from the March issue of Geek Parenting, out now!