In an age when technology is everywhere you look, it's not surprising that even young children are getting in on the action. The iPad was released in 2010 and as of June 2012, 84 million have been sold, according to CNET. This tablet computer from Apple has a large, multi-touch screen that kids can play learning games on.
Sure your toddler can operate an iPad, but at what age is it safe to let her? According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children under the age of 2 should have no screen time at all. This includes not only television but other electronics as well, such as computers, cell phones, video games and tablets, including the iPad. During the first two years of life, children's brains are growing so significantly and it can be confusing for them to differentiate the real world from what they are seeing on the screen. After age 2, an iPad is fine in moderation.
Using the iPad can have benefits for kids. PC World even named the iPad as Toy of the Year in 2010. In a two-week study conducted by PBS, involving children 3 to 7, it was found that educational apps can improve a child's vocabulary by as much as 31 percent in two weeks. Ann Densmore, an expert in speech and language development, said in an article on Harvard Health that there are even iPad apps that are helpful for children in speech and language therapy.
While there are some benefits to children using an iPad as an educational tool, there are also some dangers to be aware of. No electronic device can replace the role of human interaction. It's important that young children learn by doing and not by watching, according to pediatrician Howard J. Bennett of Chevy Chase Pediatrics, in a 2012 The Washington Post article. He also warns that an iPad can be addictive when used too much. Even though it's okay for your 2-year old to use an iPad, children up to the age of 3 will learn better from real world experiences than from any type of electronics, especially when it comes to language.
When you decide to let your child start using the iPad, it's important that you establish some rules and limitations. You will need limit the amount of time he is allowed to spend using the iPad. Mayo Clinic and The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests limiting all screen time to one to two hours per day, this includes iPad, television and any other electronics combined. Preview all apps before you allow your child to use them, to ensure they are age-appropriate. When you're little one is using the iPad, use it with him, talk about what is happening and ask open-ended questions. This will make the time he is using an iPad more beneficial.
- HealthChildren.org: Why to Avoid TV Before Age 2
- ABC News: Parent Debate: Do iPads and Smartphones Really Teach Toddlers to Read?
- CNET: Can Apps Make Kids Smarter?
- Harvard Health Publications: iPad Apps and Screen Time for Kids: Learning or Babysitting?
- Time Health and Family: Should Your 2-Year Old Be Using an iPad?
- The Washington Post: Digital Devices Engage Tots, But Some Experts Discourage Use Before Age 2
- Psychology Today: Is It Okay to Let Your Toddler Play with the iPad?
- Common Sense Media: What's Really Best for Learning?
- Mayo Clinic: Children and TV: Limiting Your Child's Screen Time
- PC World: Why iPad is the Children's Toy of the Year
- Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images