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Should Children Play with Smartphones?


More and more parents today are handing over their smart phones and tablets to their children. Kids are little pros when it comes to pulling up videos, downloading apps, and navigating the other various features of these smart devices. But you have to consider the pros and cons of letting your young ones play with these expensive adult toys.

The good

When you’re on a car trip, waiting for a table at a restaurant, or otherwise doing something a child would find tedious, it’s easy to hand over an electronic device to keep the kid quiet and occupied. Having an electronic babysitter isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it’s just important to establish limits and rules. No toys at the dinner table or church, for instance.

There are educational benefits to letting kids play with smart phones and tablets, too. You just have to know where to find them. Apps designed to help kids with reading, math, and other academic subjects turn learning into challenging games. Anything that makes a child eager to practice the multiplication tables can’t be a bad thing, right? Especially when it means operating a spaceship and saving the planet from aliens (see the game Math Evolve).

Devices like the iPad and Kindle Fire also have undeniable benefits when it comes to children’s books. The wide, vividly colored screens allow you to share the joys of classic picture books with your kids. Some programs have read-along features that help children sound out words so they can learn to read on their own. Older kids can build up their own library of chapter books that they can access anywhere—on car rides, in the doctor’s waiting room, at night in bed.

There’s no denying that this smart technology has worked its way even into the classroom. Today’s children are using the technology that allows for gaming, texting, and online web surfing to discover more about the world around them. While that’s all well and good, there are also some drawbacks to consider.

The bad

Kids have had TVs and computers sucking up their brain cells for years now. Today we add smart phones and tablets to the mix, and you have portable devices that kids will always demand whenever they’re bored. As with any electronic device, too much time spent on the iPad playing Angry Birds or watching videos could potentially make your kid a mini tech addict. Studies have suggested that excessive time spent playing mindless apps could shorten kids’ attention spans.

Another thing you have to remember is that these are kids playing with expensive, fragile devices—adult toys. Unless you’re comfortable with the way your child handles your e-reader or smart phone, allowing for fingerprint smudges, baby slobber, and accidental drops, you may want to limit or supervise their using your tools. That, or invest in a sturdy protective case.

Smart solutions

There’s no barring children completely from smart technology. The see it, they like it, and they want to use it. But there are ways to structure the way kids use your smart phone or tablet so they’re not wasting hours of the day playing Paper Ball Toss.

You can enjoy story time on a smart device, but have a good-sized library of physical books in the house so your children won’t look at them like they’re from another planet.

You can set limits on play time and use smart phones as an incentive for good behavior. When a child does his or her chores, reads so many books, or is nice to a younger sibling, the child can earn play time on an electronic device. This way, both you and your kids stay happy.

Brittany Rowland Brittany Rowland researches new developments in Appliances, Kitchen and CE products features with a vigor to which few would aspire… but someone has to do it. See more about Brittany

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