Sunday, May 17, 2015

Five things I want to tell parents about iPad use for kids

We have recently finished a parent survey in rural Nebraska about digital technology use. A few things became clear (though not really surprising).
1. All participants had access to the Web in one way or another.
2. All participants had access to multiple devices. The most common were smartphones and tablets with laptops a close third. Over half of the respondents had family access to 4 or more devices.
3. Email, social media, and web surfing were the three most common personal uses.

Parents also worried about device use for children:
The number one worry is inappropriate sites, social media, and interacting with strangers online (27%). A close second is the worry about how children choose to spend their time, namely overdoing device use (19%). Parents were also worried that devices will limit social interaction and creativity (11%) and will not have enough physical activity (8%).

I am a parent and an educator. Two of my kids grew up before the age of the mobile device (well they had a Gameboy) and two are living through this age of mobile digital devices.
Yes my kids have access to iPads. No, they are not addicted and they do spend time outside, in extra curriculars, and playing off line. And, like most parents I am still searching for the best way to manage a balance between device time and opportunities to learn in multiple ways. At the same time I am aware of the opportunities that the devices present to be creative, interactive, and learn about the world. Oh yes and have fun.

So here are some rules I live by:
1. Limit access to devices in both location times and a general time limit. For example we take iPads with us for car use on long trips but never on local drives.

2. No social media until we feel it is appropriate (maturity over age) and safe.

3. On iPads you can easily prevent web access and app store access so kids can't buy anything, although we do not do this. We've had conversations with our kids about what is appropriate and we do not share our iTunes password which means they cannot purchase any app without us.

4. Make it fun to do other things. For that we have to participate, digital devices are a fun alternative when you are bored BUT it does not beat a good game of capture the flag.

5. Maybe most importantly, kids do not have to use "educational apps" to learn or be creative. Many of the apps challenge kids to be problem solvers (the room anyone?), creators (minecraft), or artists. Embrace the learning!
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