A New Kind of Playground? What Happens When Young Children are Connected with Technology

The Wall Street Journal published an article today entitled “What Happens When Toddlers Zone Out With an iPad.” I fully expected this article to be a story lambasting parents for using an iPad as a way to get some valuable quiet time in houses that are rarely quiet. I expected that this article would highlight the horrors of letting your child use an iPad, but that is not what this story is about at all.

I love my iPad. Honestly, it has changed my life in ways I never thought possible. I was sold on an iPad, when one of my colleagues told me that I could listen to legislative committee hearings from any location, instead of being chained to the committee room. But I have come to use my iPad for so much more.

This is not a commercial for iPads. But I am not a techie gal and this device has raised my technological ambitions more than I ever could have imagined. I am addicted – which is why I was sure the research would show that we should not expose our children to such addictive substances.

It turns out that some research has shown that iPads can help children learn! In fact, the article points out:

“One study using an iPod Touch and sponsored by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop found children 4- to 7-years-old improved on a vocabulary test after using an educational app called “Martha Speaks.” The 13 5-year-olds tested averaged a 27% gain. A study using a different educational app had a similar result, with 3-year-olds exhibiting a 17% gain.”

While I am still unsure about the implications of small children using an iPad for extended periods of time, and this article does encourage moderation, how refreshing to learn that there may be a tool to entertain our children that we don’t have to feel guilty about using!

What do you think? Do you allow your kids to use an iPad or other type of similar device? Do you feel that these tools present opportunities for your kids to learn?  Have you felt guilt about using these tools to keep your child busy when necessary? Have you found any strategies that have helped ensure that your child does not become dependent on these tools? Does this article make you, like me, feel better for your own addictions?

Please share your thoughts! And thank you for reading.


Filed under Education, Parenting, Relationships, Social Media, Youth Leadership

18 responses to “A New Kind of Playground? What Happens When Young Children are Connected with Technology

  1. As a future parent (hopefully), I can’t even begin to imagine the tech. devices, apps, and other inventions that will be available for tiny people to use. It’s all about moderation. While I’m sure there are some benefits to letting toddlers use an iPad, we’ve always got to think about what is lost if too much time is absorbed by a screen.

    • Absolutely. I can only imagine what it must be like to be a parent i this connected universe. Just the thought of Facebook in middle school makes me shudder. And there is no question that kids need more interpersonal interaction and outside time, but I know that parents frequently feel guilt for occasionally letting their kids watch a movie, so it is good to know that this can be an option. Of course, we will have to wait and see the long-terms studies. Thanks so much for your comment!

  2. It’s like anything else, a tool. If it is used correctly it can be used for good, if not, it can be used for evil (not really). My child watched educational videos as a toddler and he turned out just fine! Now there are so many apps and programs for learning, it is hard to go wrong with a computer or an iPad.

    • Thanks so much for your comment! I love that. I am so glad to see that someone smarter than me came up with the idea of connecting something that kids enjoy, like video games, to make it more educational. And even better, parents could use these tools to connect with their children, not just to disconnect when they need a breather, right? Thanks for reading and for the thoughtful response.

  3. I don’t know about kids but I want one! My sister-in-law uses hers to skype and she can walk all over the house. Hard for me to sit still so that thought intrigues me…..

    • I am a little embarassed to admit how much I love it. I am using it right now to type this response! My husband and I bought ours when the iPad 2’s came out – we went to Best Buy and got a great deal on the 1s and we love them. You could probably get a great deal on e-bay now that they came out with the 3. Personally, I am not even tempted to upgrade – maybe partly because of the expense, but the 1 is all I need. Love at first byte! 😉 Thanks so much for your comment!

  4. I guess I’m a relic, because I don’t own an IPad and don’t have a phone that does anything but allow me to talk and text, though I can access the internet on it, I choose not to. I’m sure I could make use of one, and many other forms of technology, but we’re trying to go backward, instead of forward, in some ways. We’ve not had television for over 12 years, and we actually talk and enjoy the outdoors and our hobbies quite often.
    I take issue with the Joan Ganz Cooney Center’s study. Part of their agenda is to foster learning through digital media. That being said, the study seems to be slanted, IMO.
    All four of my kids have grown up, but what I did with TV, was to limit it to one hour a day, the remaining time spent reading, doing art, playing games, board and otherwise, as time went on, and so on.
    I believe that it’s okay for kids to have the benefit of technology, as a part of learning, vocabulary, as in the JGC Center’s study. However, there is no substitute for the interaction between an attentive parent and their child. Parents should be the child’s first and most important teacher, and as they grow up, this should never change.
    I do think that as tools for learning, they’re fine, but not as the only tool. I also think that it’s never or should NEVER be necessary to use technology to keep a child busy. A child can be kept busy with a small box of crayons and a new coloring book or some paper. We need more right brain exercise for our kids, rather than more left brain.

    • Good morning! Thank you so much for your comment. actually couldn’t agree with you more. I think parents will do the best parenting for their children by making sure that there is plenty of “disconnected” time outside or drawing or using their minds in other creative ways. I have to believe that the kids who are better at interacting with people and able to think without the assistance of technology are going to be the most successful in life. And just reading your comment about coloring books and crayons takes me back to my childhood – that was certainly all I needed to keep busy. I do think that these new tools can provide a fun activity for parents to engage in with their kids, and I can really see the lure of saving this tool for a difficult time like a long plane ride, but you are right – the simpler strategies will be the most healthy and helpful over the long term. By the way, congrats on being moderately technologically disconnected – it is not easy to pull off in this day and age! Thanks again for your thoughtful comment. It will be interesting to see what long term studies on this and the use of other technologies find.

  5. My husband has downloaded a few games for our 6 yo daughter and they are really good. She enjoys them, but you won’t see her playing with the ipad for more than 30 minutes, so it’s ok.
    One of them is a dictionary, so you see a picture of the object and the child can choose the audio in the language of their choice, so they get a lot of new vocabulary there.
    There’s also a game called TimeGeeks, in which they tell you to find stuff in the midst of a very crowded picture, and my daughter has a blast with that as well.
    We’ve also downloaded a couple of audiobooks with animation, but she gets bored rather quickly with those.
    In all, there are a lot of tools out there, and if they get kids to focus on a task for more than a few minutes without boring them, then they can’t be that bad.

    • Thank you so much for your comment! I think moderation is the key here. I like your idea of no more than half an hour at a time, but I am glad to learn that there are some benefits to using this technology as well. We certainly live in a connected world and I suppose that kids need to learn to connect and to disconnect. Thanks again so much reading and for yor comment!

  6. Much of the research suggests that more harm than good comes from trying to use technology as an aid to education at the early ages — up to middle school at least. See my blog from March 28th “Computer Fix.”

    • Interesting. That makes sense to me, but it is interesting to learn about sme of the potential benefits as well. I will check out your post – apparently, great minds think alike about blog topics! 🙂

  7. Here is the link to Hugh’s post for those who are interested:

    Hugh’s blog is one of my favorites to follow and if I knew how to add a blog roll to my blog, his would be one of the first listed. Always thought provoking! Thanks, Hugh!

  8. I think the only electronic devices that are a waste of time are games consoles like the PS3, Wii, Xbox. Unless you get the educational games on there (do they even have any???). I have a PS3 and for a while there I really had to put a timer on my son because if you let him, he’d be on there for hours! Now, thankfully he has discovered sport so he isn’t on the PS3 that much. Having said that, iPads, iPhones – you can download educational apps that can be very beneficial to young ones. My daughter is 4 and she loves having quiet time with the iPhone. She plays Dora games, Barbie games, number games – these are all educational but in a fun way.
    Anyway, she gets bored very quickly so it’s not something I have to pry off her. She sits, plays for about 15 minutes then is on to the next thing. Like everything else, moderation is key.

    • Thanks so much for your comment! I think you are exacttly right moderation does seem to be the key. And if you can enforce that, it sounds like therte can be some real benefits to some of the programs. Thanks for reading and for your comment!

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