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Toddlers with tablets?

By Naomi Mannino ·
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Posted: 1 pm ET

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?

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Naomi Mannino
December 27, 2011 at 11:51 am

Love the comment I did not even address in the post about how many children drop their tablet soon after opening? WOW!

Momma 07
December 19, 2011 at 9:31 am

I bought an off brand Android Tablet for my 4 almost 5 year old for Christmas.
I think It is a Good investment (only cost $120.00)
And I'm sure He wont use it all the time either.
We are downloading E-Books So we can Read More To him and have family time Together. I also added some movies to it so our hour long car rides to The grandparents can Keep him entertained. I also downloaded some Learning to Write letters & Number Games To help Him practice what he is learning in Pre-k.

And the best part is Mommy and daddy can use it when we need to and it Only uses WIFI So no extra Monthly Payments.

Save First
December 11, 2011 at 10:54 pm

"Is this smart spending?"

A friend of a neighbor gave their 4-year old a tablet last Christmas.

No more than 5 minutes after it was opened and briefly played with, it was dropped on the coffee table and "fried".

I asked if they had not seen it coming. Rhetorically of course.

Manufacturer of device = YES
Parents of crying child needing to drop another $400 = NO
First time I was told this story = Priceless

(sorry, I just had to add that)

Naomi Mannino
December 07, 2011 at 2:41 pm

I was shocked about the ages of the kids when I read that article but I know friends of mine who are planning to buy their two kids a tablet each, ages 9 and 13! My teenage kids are too wired in already to need another device so I'm going to abstain on the tablet even though the new smaller ones seem intriguing and a little more affordable...

Donna Johnson
December 07, 2011 at 12:54 pm

I too have been horrified to learn that tablets are being marketed at little kids this year. My 4 year-old sure isn't getting an ipad this Christmas! These companies ought to be ashamed of themselves. Don't kids have enough screen time with tv, cable, satellite, Wii/Playstation/Nintendo, and all the computer and mobile phone games around? Are our kids ever going to learn to actually personally interact with one another?