Am I looking slightly concerned-slash-glum in the screen shot above? That’s me yesterday on Fox & Friends, debating Dr. Jeffrey Gardere on the subject of toddlers and tablets. You know, two year olds with iPads or those kidified tablets from Leap Frog and Nabi and VTech. The good doctor’s approach was that these aren’t at all bad; that, in fact, he said — citing research I’d love to get my hands on — kids who use tablets have better vocabularies than their counterparts by age five. (For more, watch the whole three-plus-minute clip, here).
My thoughts on toddlers and tablets? See the title of this post. They are toys. Plain and simple. A cool toy that beeps, sure, and on which they can play games that may have some connection to “education,” matching shapes and identifying letters and doing simple math and whatever else.
After our far-too-short segment, I shook Dr. Gardere’s hand. After all, we mostly agree that tablets, like all tech for kids, needs monitoring (there’s a wide ocean of difference between letting a little one play an ABC game for 10 minutes and distractedly handing him your iPad and losing the next five hours to endless screen swipes and many Angry Birds). But I can’t get behind the idea that kids “need” a tablet to learn, well, anything other than using a tablet. Which is in itself not a bad thing, either.
Tech is part of their world and a tablet is the tip of whatever amazing iceberg they’ll live on someday.
But let’s just say I’m glad — very, very glad — that this didn’t exist in the mere blip of tech-time it’s been since I had infants and toddlers:
What we have here, my friends, is an iPod-holding “activity” “gym” for babies. Never too young, it seems, to begin to worship at the altar of Steve Jobs’ ghost, amirite?
Then there’s this:
…because what baby wants to swat at rattles and those lame squeeze toys when there’s a screen to swipe?
What I told the Fox & Friends producer on the phone (a conversation that lasted probably twice the length of the actual segment, naturally) was this:
- Is a tablet something I’d keep from my toddler? Probably not. It’s a a reality of their lives, and I think it’s a fairly classic cat-out-of-the-bag situation. Though I wouldn’t buy one for a two year old. Or hand mine to my kid as a distraction or a time-killer. This is so hard, because handing a kid an electronic gadget is far easier than teaching them what patience is, what the passage of time feels like, and the value of boredom. My kids are far past being toddlers, of course, and we’re still working on it.
- Are tablets educational? Well, beyond reinforcing the kind of things toddlers are learning through other means, no. And any parent who is buying a tablet or app thinking it’s more okay than Angry Birds or Candy Crush because it’s educational? Is fooling herself. (See: Baby Einstein).
- Should tablets be monitored like TV? You have to ask?
What do you think?