Children and iPads: An Apple a Day?

I remember a world before the internet and mobile tablets. I remember the age of pagers and typewriters. I remember the AOL dialup tones and the extraordinary phone bills . . . and, no, I'm not that old - though anyone too young to remember life before the digital revolution of the 90s might disagree.

There's currently an E-Trade ad on TV featuring a talking baby with a Smartphone. It makes me laugh every time I see it, but today, it does almost seem as though children are born with an innate understanding of technology. An annual survey from Parenting Group, the publisher of Parenting, Babytalk and Parenting.com and the BlogHer network, found that 25% of toddlers have used a Smartphone by age 2. I read an article recently about an 11-year-old boy who developed a successful iPhone/iPad app called iSketch. The boy, Cameron Cohen, donated $20,000 of the proceeds to the Chase Child Life program at Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA.

There is a plethora of mobile apps for children, from teaching apps to apps that assist Autism. When there are such examples of children doing and learning amazing things with Smartphone and tablets, it's easy to overlook an important question: Is it safe for young children to use iPhones and iPads?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has advised parents to limit screen time for toddlers and babies, most recently suggesting that kids younger than 2 avoid televisions altogether. The AAP notes that children do best when interacting with other humans. However, the AAP’s new policy doesn’t address iPhones or iPads.

According to a NPR interview with Dr. Ari Brown, the lead author of the AAP’s revised guidelines on toddlers and TV, “There might be a real educational use for those items on these screens,” she says. “We just don’t have any data to say one way or the other.”

What's your opinion? Are we helping or hindering the development of our next generation?