I read an article in Cult of Mac yesterday that prompted me to write this post. The author makes a case for why every parent must, not walk, but run to the closest store to pick up an iPad 2 for their kids. Now, the article is probably comment bait and the site is unsurprisingly an Apple fanboy website, but the conversation is definitely warranted today.
Let me get something out of the way- I love Apple products. I own many of them and I am typing this post on my MacBook Pro. I think the iPad2 is one of the coolest if not *the* coolest consumer electronics device in the market today and would love to own one of my own if I can actually figure out a reason why I need it. If I can find an excuse to buy it, I would. And my wife would vouch for that.
Here is why I think exposing kids to the iPad at an early age is not the best of ideas. It makes them addicted to a form of entertainment and knowledge consumption that makes them averse to learning things on their own. The iPad challenges only the sense of touch while other toys and books allow kids to explore the world in a far more personal manner. At home, our toddler is not allowed to watch any TV. The tradeoff was that my wife and I dont watch any TV when he is awake. So we are not trying to replace TV viewing for our kid, atleast not yet. The only interactive entertainment the little guy gets is 30-50 minutes a day with his MobiGo and our iPod touch. And if it were not for very pressing personal reasons, even the 30-50 minutes would be replaced with other toys, games and reading.
I admit that my son does learn new things on the iPod touch with the bevy of kid friendly and educational apps we have on for him. But it is repetitive and mind numbing. After 10 minutes, I see a zombified look in his eyes that I am not comfortable with. Taking these devices away at the end of the allotted is always a challenge and often times an argumentative affair. And a bigger screen with cooler visuals would only make it infinitely worse.
And we have not talked about the impact on their eyes and brain watching something on an LCD screen so close and for however long. If a couple of hours of working on a computer induces headaches and sore eyes on adults, I cant imagine the impact on kids.
And most importantly to me, the fun of reading books and doing things with my kid far outweighs him interacting with a tablet. Call me old fashioned in this aspect, but I don’t regret wanting to do it the old fashioned way with paper books, physical toys and doodle pads.
So while I completely agree with the joy and future benefit of having a tech savvy and smart kid who uses and learns with the iPad, I don’t think my 3-year old needs it quite yet. I am sure technology will catch up with him sometime soon and when it does, Ill get him one then. And the purpose would never be to fill a void in engagement time but in learning.