The statistics showing the numbers of young children with access to an iPad are phenomenal. Released only two years ago the iPad is still relatively new technology and for that reason there is extremely limited research as to the effects it has on brain development in babies, toddlers and young children. The question is then; are tablets harmful or helpful? And should we be readily hand them over to our children?
Educationally helpful: A tablet can increase the learning process of a toddler exponentially. With access to endless entertainment, educational programs, games and books, tablets like the iPad are the easiest way to entertain and educate your toddler on the go. Gone are the days of carrying around bags full of books, stackable cubes and battery powered toys; welcome to the toddler tablet revolution!
Watching the children in my family pick up Smartphones, Tablets, and all manner of touch screen technologies I am always amazed at just how quickly they can get it working (quicker than most of the adults in the room!) Because of its touch and go processing it is no wonder that it is a toy of choice instead of video games and computers which are difficult to use for tiny hands. The multitude of educational apps that are available can help increase vocabulary, teach children to identify animals in English and other languages and much more. There are so many cognitive benefits to using tablets, enabling children to progress ahead of their time and development. The time comes though when we much question how much time our toddlers are spending using such technology and gadgets. An equal balance between gadgets and outdoor activities is very important. This is not only because of an ever increasing statistic of obese children but also because of the tactile elements that can only be found by interacting with your environment.
Whilst tablets offer a range of books, toys, games, learning and more, there is something to be said for a very limited and supervised usage. Using the tablet with your toddler and making it an interactive time that you can share together will enhance the experience and the learning capabilities.
There are possible harmful aspects: The tablets and touch screen gadgets have been described as digital pacifiers or babysitters, just as TV’s once were. Because of the one dimensional aspect of the tablets the learning can be restricted. For instance cooking apps don’t allow for a full body experience of temperature, touch, smell, sound and taste like cooking in a real kitchen with a parent would. Children are far more awe-struck when reading through a pop-up book with a parent than when a similar situation arises on a touch screen. With the pop-up book the paper castle builds out of nowhere; there is something tangible and three dimensional that they can touch and feel, unlike a tablet which has no textures.
Other parental worries might be that the use of such tools will make children less sociable and more sedimentary. Such concerns were present with the emergence of the ‘television babysitter’ by which I mean that parents would put young children in front of televisions whilst they did other things. It has been said that the more television watched during the formative years can lead to attention problems later on. Can the same be said of tablets?
Because of the nature of these devices they are often used to replace social interaction. However, we must remember how important interaction between children and their peers, children and their teachers, and children and their parents can be. Children might master playing games but miss out on learning to share, taking turns, waiting for one’s turn and having conversations.
For more information about excessive use of technology and other internet safety aspects please search for the Vodafone Parents' Guide.