Apparently nobody has an answer to that question yet & our kids are the guinea pigs.
Some folks hypothesize that kids learn faster using a touch screen device than, say, watching Baby Einstein on the TV. Others are worried about the intensity with which young children use iPads, iPhones, etc. Or they’re worried about how, exactly, these devices are affecting the development of little brains, which rapidly form synapses during the first 3 years of life.
What I worry about? How will our children ever learn to sit still, to be alone with their thoughts, if at every moment we stick an iPad in their laps. I worry about this because I have trouble sitting still & just being with the allure of my iPhone forever calling my name.
Kids get bored easily, they wiggle & squirm (even to the point of annoyance). At church, at restaurants, on planes, at the store … basically any time you want them to sit still. But as someone who is mildly addicted to technology and the internet, I don’t know that touch-screen devices are the answer to the inconvenience presented by a wiggly child. Is the solution to the inconvenience that results from the clash of child & societal expectations a roomful of quiet children hiding behind screens? I don’t think so.
Am I a Luddite? Perhaps.
But touch screen devices are becoming so ubiquitous (in certain circles… access to technology is a serious problem for most) & are so alluring that I think it’s worth pausing & thinking about precisely what is going on in those little (perplexing) toddler brains.
What resonated with me in the Washington Post piece was the worry over how apps & games aimed at young children structure play in ways that might limit a child’s imagination. Ben Worthen, the author of the article, contrasts an app (which imposes its own set of rules) with building with Legos (an open-ended activity this child can define).
Also troublesome is the addictive nature of touch screen games. The article points out that many apps & games are “designed to stimulate dopamine releases—hence encouraging a child to keep playing…”
We simply don’t know what effects (if any) all of this might have on our children.
There is no (or minimal) oversight of apps & games aimed at young children. Many are nothing more than glorified advertising. Even if an app is purportedly educational, I’d ask: Who is designing these? What are their qualifications, motives, etc.? What does a “well-designed” app for young children even look like? I don’t think we have answers to even these basic questions let alone the tougher questions.
For now, we’re holding off. My iPhone is not much more than a photo album for my son. As appropriate, we’ll teach him to use all our gadgets as tools & we’ll deal with distractions later. But, of course, I’ll never say never… Nothing is that definite in parenting!