The iPad is such a tremendous lure for everyone, especially kids. My nearly 3 year-old daughter loves playing cooking with Toca Boca Kitchen, has been learning the sounds of alphabets from Starfall ABCs, and surprised me when she said, “Hexagon!” when pointing to a hexagonal STOP sign, thanks to the app, Make it Pop..
I have found that I am very impressed by how Kaikai controls her own experiences on the iPad – she doesn’t want and doesn’t need me to direct her learning. She chooses what she wants to learn and often slaps my hand away when I try to intervene.
But am I a derelict parent by letting her use the iPad whenever she asks for it? Should there be a limit to the amount of screen time that she should have?.
Peter Gray’s perspective in Psychology Todayis the most enlightened perspective I have heard on these questions so far
He argues that:
1. There hasn’t been research evidence to support all the fears that we have about kids being less sociable, less physically fit, less intelligent because of their screen time;
2. That kids can and should have the freedom to regulate their own learning;
3. That in fact, research has shown many positive benefits to the brain and even in terms of social interaction with computer use.
Here’s where I stand. (Note: this is not carte blanche permission for parents to now plonk their kids in front of screens, but must be read in the context of the learning environment in the home.)
Here’s how this translates into practice in my household (at least for the moment):
1. We try to have an environment at home for Kaikai to direct her own experiences – not just in terms of iPad use, but also in terms of playing with clay, reading, making up stories. Playing with the iPad or watching TV is a part of this decision to have her direct her own experiences as much as possible.
2. We talk to her about her various experiences through the day and make connections between the kinds of texts that she reads and real life experience. For example, she did that herself with “hexagon”, while we do that through, e.g., asking her, “Remember this dinosaur in Dino Dan?”
3. We also try to provide her with a variety of activities every week. She’s quite happy to put down the iPad or abandon the TV if there’s something new and fun available, especially if we’re participating too.
I remember that there was one summer a long time ago, before parenthood and before starting work, when my husband and I did nothing but watch crap like “VHI: Where Are They Now” and “E! True Hollywood Story” on our TV while slouched in our couch. By the end of that summer, we were so disgusted with ourselves that what followed was a burst of creative production for a really, really long time. Who is to say that screen time, even screen time watching “Where are They Now” is necessarily useless? Or perhaps you could say, imagine how much more productive you would have been if you’d spent that time reading books instead of watching TV. Who can really predict what happens next?
Dr. Yen Yen Woo is Associate Professor of Education at Long Island University, C.W.Post and the creator of the Dim Sum Warriors comics app, available through the App Store in 2012. Read a comic, learn a language! www.dimsumwarriors.com.