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The use of tablets among children has long been debated by experts and parents. Many parents know the disadvantages, but the temptation for temporary good behavior is much to good to resist. And what about the learning. Let’s discuss that aspect.
Commonsight: Use of Tablets Among Children
Since we are a very “happening” family, we are always around. We go to malls, hotels, and so many Bacolod restaurants. Mostly, these are for events we cover or sometimes, it’s a family weekend dinner.
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And of course, we travel a lot. We have been observing the kids that we meet in airports, bus terminals, or hotel lobbies Many of them are very quiet and well-behaved in these public places. They seem to wait patiently until their parents are done with their business.
But what makes these kids sit still and be quiet? Their common denominator is a gadget.
Bad Effects of Screen Time for Kids
This year, the World Health Organization (WHO) echoed the recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2016. WHO recommends that children between 2 and 5 years old should be limited to one hour of screen time per day. The lesser exposure, the better it is for kids.
The concern is a child’s preoccupation with the screen. The games and apps rob the children of time to be physically active as well as get much needed sleep. Let us not forget that physical activity and exercise offers a lot of benefits needed for a child’s physical and mental development.
During the child’s early years, the brain develops rapidly. With this, young children learn best by interacting with people, not screens. They should talk, laugh, and play with parents, siblings, and friends.
Moreover, always having their head down and having no eye contact with people might be harmful to their brain development.
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The lack of interaction because of screen time impedes language, social and emotional development. Additionally, it may affect a child’s development of insights, empathy, and ways of knowing themselves.
Our Family’s Experience with Screen Time
I believe that each child is a unique individual. So their learning and coping processes, as well as talents and skills, are different. And we have applied this perception on the use of tablets among our children.
We have researched about kids’ exposure to digital and electronic devices. These include screen time from the television and the use of tablets among children.
We learned that exposing very young infants to the tube at an early age may increase the risk of autism. And so we avoided that.
Both my husband and I read on how these things affect our kids. After all, parenting is our shared responsibility.
Due to our research on the subject, we did not start our children on educational videos until they were 7 months old. These videos were shown on the television at regulated times and not on handheld gadgets.
We also avoided bringing them outside during mealtimes when the family TV is almost always on. Based on our readings, we learned that commercials, compared to children’s videos, have very fast movements for children’s eyes to follow. A baby’s eyes are not yet so developed and this early exposure may distort their vision.
How the iPad Became a Tool for Learning
While the use of gadget among young kids have bad effects, they also have advantages. So we didn’t want our kids to miss out.
The educational shows on television were introduced at seven months. As for the tablet, we delayed introducing it until the kids were over three years old.
We wanted our children to have a well-rounded childhood where they are exposed to physical play. They should have fun time with friends, time for art, and many other things.
I think our eldest Shawna was already 3.5 years old when we bought our first iPad and she started using it. We had some games, especially Princess dress up and cooking games.
But we also had bed time stories, bible stories, and many other educational apps. These included medical documentaries from the Harvard School of Medicine.
Learning New Skills
There are skills that can be learned while using handheld devices. We cannot neglect the fact that our world is turning digital.
When our eldest Shawna got her own phone (a hand me down from me), she learned how to make stop-motion videos. Moreover, she can shoot a vlog, edit it, and upload it on youtube. She has done all of these without us having to teach her. We were amazed that she was able to figure out everything by herself.
Her creativity actually knows no boundaries. Below is the video that Shawna did all by herself. This was taken at the Ayala Malls Capitol Central when the Mind Museum Space Adventure Exhibit was held.
The Discipline Needed in Using Gadgets
So basically, the tablet became a learning tool. However, we limited their use of the iPad and we regulate the apps that she could use. One such limit is, no more games during bedtime. She only gets to read a couple of bible stories.
Or Papa reads a story for them, complete with actions and sound effects. The kids just adore this time because Papa can be really funny. It’s an end of the day bonding activity for them and it makes them really happy.
This is part of regulating their gadget use — we use it with them so that they don’t end up “zoning out” in their games and videos.
I can say that the discipline of regulating our iPad, TV, and mobile phone use have worked on both our children.
But of course, they are kids and they are human. There are times when they would try to bend the rules, but we remain firm. I am a work at home mom so I can monitor their gadget use.
A Variety of Activities
Aside from these routines, we try to balance their schedule as much as we can. They have play time outside, intentional playtime with friends, and playtime with new kids in common play areas. For the last one, we go to fun houses in malls.
Furthermore, the kids also have time for art. We provide them with arts and crafts materials like crayons, pens, pencils, water color and lots of scratch paper. They can doodle and make paper crafts all they want.
Sometimes, they use the iPad for art tutorials. They have done many drawings while following online tutorials on how to draw.
Anything in Moderation
So for us, we believe that everything can be a tool for learning as long as it is used in moderation. We are homeschooling, so gadgets have provided additional lessons and experiences to our kids.
It is also worthy to note that the use of gadgets and the internet should be with careful parental supervision.
After all, anything and everything will be just as bad and will have adverse effects if not moderated.
We are not perfect parents. But let’s try not to leave things to chance. Let’s do our research and implement rules around the house. The kids will appreciate that when they are older.
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