Toddlers and iPads: When to Give Kids Access to Screens

In my house, we don’t have cable and, therefore, don’t watch much TV. But that doesn’t mean we’re screen-free. I sit behind a computer from 9-5. I commute by train and subway with the companionship of my iPhone, and at night I log a good hour or more either checking in on emails and social networks or just household planning and shopping.

viv and ipad 300x225 Toddlers and iPads: When to Give Kids Access to Screens Photo

The author’s daughter on her iPad

So it’s no surprise that my daughter loves these devices, too. She may only be two, but she has an iPhone of her own (without a data plan) and has pretty much hijacked my iPad. She knows how to take pictures, launch games and find Wiggles videos.

There are enough educational apps available for toddlers that, at first, it seems innocuous enough as a toy. But recently, I’ve been critical of how much time she’s been spending on the iPhone compared to her coloring books and Legos.

While there’s a difference in opinion on whether apps can actually be educational for toddlers, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) holds firm that children under age two learn best from play, not screens.

In their last statement on the topic, the AAP said:

“Unstructured play time is more valuable for the developing brain than media. Children learn to think creatively, problem solve, and develop reasoning and motor skills at early ages through unstructured, unplugged play. Free play also teaches them how to entertain themselves.”

Of course, this is something that most parents know – even though it’s often simpler to hand over a phone to a howling child in a car seat or slip them the tablet while cooking dinner.

As for my daughter, we’re starting to put down rules and divert her attention away from her favorite device.

“Wouldn’t it be fun to sing a song together while we drive?”

“Want to help me make dinner by putting this into a bowl?”

And this means shutting down myself, closing the computer and releasing the grip on my phone. In the end, it might be as good for me as it is for her.

What are your rules around smartphones, tablets and computers in your household?