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Tablets for tots: Lazy parenting?

I’m the mom of a 14-month-old and I know more than one parent of a baby or toddler who uses an iPad or iPhone as a source of entertainment for their child.

There are tablets on the market designed just for tots. There are iPad and smartphone apps marketed toward babies. Is letting your toddler toy with a tablet simply lazy parenting or can it be beneficial? Or is that just an excuse because you desperately need to get a load of laundry folded. Real moms (and dads!) weigh in on the pros and cons of tots and technology.

Lazy parenting?

“Not if it helps you get something done,” says Jaimee, mother of a 2-year-old and a 5-year-old from California.”Yes, I do feel that using an iPad is lazy and yes I do it,” she laughs, adding, “but why not take advantage of the crutches out there? Moms need these electronic babysitters,” says Jaimee.

“It gives you a break,” says Tiffany, mother of a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old from Missouri agrees. “Every mom needs a break sometimes. Even kids need a mental break sometimes.”

“I make sure the apps are appropriate, entertaining and, hopefully, educational. And let’s be honest, the laundry has to get done, so five minutes with the PBS Kids app isn’t lazy or detrimental; it’s efficient,” says Natasha, mother of a 17-month-old from Maryland.

It’s the easy way out

Sara Tetreault, blogger, and mother of two teens (who don’t have iPods or iPads or cell phones) says, “It’s the easy way out for parents and it’s bad for kids. Yes, it’s hard to do anything with young kids around but what are you teaching them? Help them read a book or play with a toy or swap child care with a friend. Hand-helds are too easy to rely on and they’re addictive — for babies, kids and parents. Don’t do it!”

Betsy, mother of a 19-month-old, 6-year-old and 9-year-old from Arizona says that although she agrees toddlers can learn from tablets, parents need to be realistic. “I don’t think we should fool ourselves into thinking that learning games on a tablet could teach a toddler any better than we could ourselves, one on one.”

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The key is moderation

“I don’t think there is anything wrong with letting your child watch a movie or play a game on these electronic devices,” says Tiffany, who adds, “The key to it all is moderation. They need to play, be creative, exercises and enjoy their childhood in addition to learning. Many of today’s shows and games are educational and can be used in that manner.”

Liz, from California, emphasizes the importance of boundaries. “I don’t have a problem with letting my toddler play with my iPad. But we have some ground rules — for instance, I never let him play with it during meals, whether at home or out to eat.”

Melissa, mother of a 3-year-old and a 14-month-old says, “In our family we use the iPad on airplanes only. We travel a lot so this strategy worked very well with our older child. It’s such a treat to him he will work on it the whole flight without a peep!”

Tots can become addicted too

Josh, father of a 20-month-old from Missouri, who says his daughter likes to scroll through his iPhone and iPad to look at pictures of herself, says, “Occasionally it can be a double-edged sword. On one hand it keeps her busy for a few minutes, she genuinely seems to enjoy it and there’s certainly some value in her understanding technology that she’ll certainly be exposed to as she grows up. On the other hand, much like her parents, it turns out that toddlers can get sort of addicted to them.”

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Use them for education

Nicole Fonovich, is a mother and the co-author and co-creator of Luca Lashes, a line of multilingual e-books and apps designed to help kids (0-4) turn fear of firsts into fun. “I think tablets are great for kids; there are numerous educational apps and the use of them promotes hand-eye coordination.”

Fonovich adds, “Have you ever witnessed how fast a child learns how to use an iPhone or any electronic device for that matter? It’s unbelievable! Can you only imagine the possibilities if we actually teach children how to use these devices to their fullest capacity rather than just as a simple toy/time waster? What will these kids be able to invent? One only knows.”

More on technology and kids

Travel with kids: Take technology?
Best iPhone apps for kids
Children and iPads: Tips for helping your toddler play with tablets

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