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When your iPad becomes a babysitter

Tiernan McKay is a freelance writer based in Denver, Colorado. Her writing has appeared in magazines such as Alive!, Occupational Health and Safety, Restaurants and Institutions, Tampa Bay and Arizona Woman. Right now, she is either ridi...


Many would argue that iPads and other electronic devices have made parenting easier in recent years but are we depending upon them too much?

Many would argue that iPads and other electronic devices have made parenting easier in recent years but are we depending upon them too much?


It used to be that long lines, waiting rooms and restaurants would strike fear in the heart of parents, but not anymore. With the prevalence of apps for kids, parents can breathe a sigh of relief while they silently pay homage to the iPad. But, are we taking iPad parenting too far? While there are countless apps for kids designed to entertain, educate and amuse, where should we, as parents, draw the line?

A new reality

In recent years, consumers have been bombarded by all sorts of technological gadgets promising easier, faster, smarter lives. It’s easy for parents to be lured in, but who is really benefitting from all of this technology? “Parents often give their children technology to make life easier for the parents, not because it is best of the children,” says Dr. Jim Taylor, psychologist, parenting expert and author of Raising Generation Tech. “I see technology used by parents to alleviate boredom, to assuage a cranky child, and to simply occupy children so parents don't have to do the hard work of parenting.”

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Unintended consequences

When parents are in a difficult spot, such as a crowded waiting room or a long line at the grocery store, it’s tempting to hand over the iPad, iPhone or other smart device. A child will often calm down or stop fussing while plugging away at a game of some sort but parents should consider the unintended consequences of tech distractions. “Children never learn to be bored or to overcome boredom,” says Dr. Taylor. “Technology-dependent children may also lose their initiative. If, when children get bored, cranky, or bothersome, their parents immediately give them their iPhone, the children are deprived of the opportunity to ask themselves how they might get out of their stimulus-deprived doldrums on their own.”

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Define your default

If you immediately respond to a challenging parenting situation by handing over the iPad, you may want to redefine your default mode. “Parents have the right to some time of their own to do important grown-up things such as talk to another adult, bathe, or have a martini,” says Dr. Taylor. “My concern is when 21st century expediency becomes the default mode. Instead of talking to or playing with the children or helping them find something to do on their own that might allay their current state, parents just pull out their iPhone and hand it to their children. It boils down to one simple question: Is giving my child technology in their best interests?”

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Make it count

If you’re going to allow your child to use technology in a parenting pinch, at least make their screen time count. Be deliberate about the apps and websites they visit and don’t let them browse aimlessly or randomly select their own activities. Check out for an example of apps and activities created by parents who wanted technology to be more about story time rather than mindless, repetitive games.

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