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Why the iPad needs to be a part of your kids life

With the success of the iPad, it seems that owning one now is almost compulsory. I don't own one myself yet, but sometimes I find interesting stories about how they are used.

Over the weekend, I found a story on Cult Of Mac which is talking about how even children seem to be adopting the Apple tablet. The author Mike Elgan talks about a night out at a restaurant and that two young kids sitting at a table were using high end noise cancellation headphones while enjoying movies and games. Call me old fashioned, but is it not better getting kids to interact with adults and other kids instead of sitting at a restaurant table, isolated from everyone else?

Elgan then says how he decided to bring out his own iPad at the restaurant, to blog about the kids using iPads. It sounds more like an Apple Store, than a restaurant.

In his article he discusses the merits of an iPad and points out that it seems to be a suitable (healthy) replacement for television. Its an interesting idea, but would a kid have a television set at a restaurant on a night out with his or her parents? The problem with this analogy is that many parents limit television time to an hour in the evenings. With the iPad it could easily take over a child's life.

Elgan says “The right question is this: Is the iPad a healthy *replacement* for TV? And I believe the answer is a resounding yes.

The iPad is scary because it’s new. But most parents have already accepted a gigantic role for something truly in the lives of their children: television. The content kids see on their TV sets is mostly mind-numbing, soul-deadening, formulaic consumerist crap, punctuated by sophisticated ad campaigns designed to transform children into mindless consumers.”

While he has a point, is it not true that many iPad applications are ‘mind numbing' and formulaic consumerist crap'?. My friend has an iPad and there seem to be 4 million tower defense games and several hundred versions of Angry Birds for almost every seasonal event. Sure, the Apple App scene is healthy enough and not all programs are rubbish, but I remember as a kid sitting in front of the television and watching cartoons with my brother and having a laugh. Isolation can be a social development hindrance for kids.

Elgan also says “Kids spend more time watching TV than they do in class (1,500 hours on TV per year vs. 900 hours in school). More than two-thirds of daycare centers let kids watch TV during day-care hours. One-quarter of preschoolers, half of school age children and two-thirds of teenagers have TV sets in their bedrooms. Two thirds of American families watch TV while eating dinner.

It gets worse: The average American child watches 20,000 TV commercials per year. The number-one category of product advertised on children’s TV shows is junk food. And even children’s shows themselves have constant references and even product placement for the worst kind of junk food.”

I obviously can't speak for America, as I don't live there, but if this is true, its certainly a frightening statistic. I don't think an iPad is a cure for bad parenting. Just a distraction to enable parents to neglect the kids even more.

He adds: “That’s why fearing the iPad is such a colossal error. The iPad isn’t a new problem. The iPad is a new solution to an old problem. By *replacing* TV time with iPad use, parents can dramatically improve the lives of their children.
From a parent’s perspective, the iPad is superior to a TV in every significant way:”

As a learning tool it would be certainly hard to fault the iPad, after all there are a wealth of applications available to aid learning and to expand mental capabilities, but if parents fail to monitor use, in the same way Elgan quotes TV use, then we could end up with many more isolated, socially damaged children.

He ends his article with “My advice to parents: Unplug that TV and run, don’t walk, to Toys R Us and buy each of your kids an iPad 2 — before TV turns them into “average Americans.”

Check out the rest of his article over here.

KitGuru says: Clearly he has an income that many of us in the UK would love to have, many people can't even afford an iPad for themselves, nevermind an additional two or three for every child in the family.

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