I came across a recent article in the personal finance section of Bloomberg touting the iPad as the most-wanted Christmas gift among children ages 6 to 12, according to The Nielsen Company. The article, titled "iPad-Crazed Toddlers Spur Holiday Sales," describes children's marketers lining up to create applications for young children, quoting parents with children as young as 2 using the iPad on a daily basis (and fighting for it with siblings).
Toddlers with their own tablets? Really? The article also brings up concerns over its use as a digital pacifier. More parents than ever clearly feel compelled to spend that $199 to $499 (or more) to buy their kids tablets this holiday, but at what cost to their holiday budget and their kids' health and development? I had to wonder, is this smart spending?
To find out, I asked Sophia Pierroutsakos, Ph.D., a screen-time expert who specializes in creating a healthier relationship with TV and technology. "If you're giving it to them because you think it has some major learning benefit, research suggests otherwise. If you're giving it to them because it’s the newest thing they want, then you're not being a mindful consumer or parent," she cautions.
"Adding digital devices to your household is concerning no matter what age the children," she says. "With older pre-teens and teenagers, if you're already concerned about time spent texting, gaming, Web-surfing, Facebooking, YouTubing and watching movies and TV instead of interacting with family and friends or being active outdoors, do you want to introduce yet another device to argue over and regulate?" With smaller children, ages 2 to 10, there are developmental concerns.
"Studies have repeatedly proven that 3-dimensional human interactions, especially with parents, stimulate babies and children to learn and grow. And 2-dimensional screens keep them from that critical human activity," she says. The American Pediatric Association maintains its guidelines of no screen time at all for babies up to age 2 and for older children, one to two hours of quality programming per day.
And when it comes to the budget cost, Pierroutsakos is just as passionate. "Maybe some can afford this expense, but for others it might mean using a credit card and building debt or working overtime to make the extra money, which just takes you away from your kids more. As a parent, you have to realize your school-age children get enough media exposure. What you want to provide is things they may be lacking in -- time with you. So save your money, and skip the tablet for the kids."
This holiday, are you planning to buy your kids a tablet? What are your reasons?