Parents with young children are often faced with a difficult decision when it comes to the iPhone and iPad. Kids love Apple's mobile devices! They are bright, colorful, responsive and easy to use. They can be used as a tool to help young children learn their colors, shapes and letters. And a recent survey by Common Sense Media suggests 20% of parent use a mobile device to keep their child entertained so they can get some errands done. Once you get over the fact that you are handing a $600 electronic device to a toddler, the iPhone, iPad or iPod touch can be a valuable parenting tool.
These mobile devices, though, have a darker side. When a child is given an iOS device, they often get absorbed into their own world while they tap away. These devices become a major distraction that takes kids away from imaginative outdoor play and keeps them from fully interacting with their parents. They can also lead to bad behavior as some kids get so hooked on using their parent's mobile device that they throw a temper tantrum when the mobile device is taken away. Even parents can get caught up in their child's love for iOS and use the device to bribe their child to behave, when they really should be disciplining them instead.
It's all about balance and parents today have to decide how much device time is enough. Unfortunately, there's no magical number and this optimal time varies from child to child and family to family. To make things even more challenging, an increasing number of games and other applications are now targeting children. Between white noise generators for babies and Disney's new Cars game for the iPad, this line of appropriate usage will become even more difficult for parents to define.