In the coming years, technology will continue to play a large role in our children’s lives. I’m sure you have seen YouTube videos of babies and toddlers swiping through their parents’ iPads, knowing exactly what they are looking for! Though some of us bemoan the prevalence of technology in our young children’s lives (myself included!), the fact is that tablets and smart phones are an integral part of many homes and they can be used as tools to educate and inspire.
There are so many great apps that are education-focused and can help children master arithmetic, spelling, memorization and history to name a few. We have heard of a few schools issuing iPads to each student -allowing students to carry their textbooks more easily, download more frequently updated versions of school texts, and receive, complete, and turn in assignments electronically. There are organizational apps that help families with their daily tasks and chores; apps that make sharing messages and photos between family members safer through other social media outlets (which can be a big help to families with young children and grandparents who live far away), etc. There are apps that allow children to develop their creativity and imagination through interactive storybooks and artistic endeavors.
One of the most important things I have learned is to limit my children’s screen time. While tablets and smart phones are great tools for both education and fun, it is so important that children are encouraged to participate in free play, sports, reading etc. As a parent, I see one of my responsibilities as helping them learn to find a healthy balance between screen time and other activities. Left on their own, they would likely choose screen time (TV, computer, tablets) over anything else.
There are, of course, apps for that! We reviewed Screen Time – Media Time Manager a few months ago. Using Screen Time, you will be able to do the following: 1) assign daily minute allowances for each child, 2) encourage your children to earn screen minutes by doing chores or showing good behavior, and 3) encourage your kids to give up their screen time minutes for other rewards or activities. Alternatively, I tend to set my iPad or iPhone timer for 15 minutes. Each child gets two 15 minute non-consecutive turns, and when the timer goes off they can finish whichever app they are in the middle of before passing the device over to a sibling. Consequences of not listening are not being allowed to use a tablet or smart phone the next day. Remember to always follow through with the consequences! The daughter of a friend of mine commented to her upon losing a privilege for misbehaving “that’s ok mommy, you will forget tomorrow that you took that away from me.”
Used properly, a tablet can enrich a child’s life. Theiphonemom.com strives to help parents make smart choices in choosing apps for their families, and hopefully we will continue to play a role in our readers’ lives!