This post is inspired by Momlogic’s article iPhone: A Toddler’s BFF? posted on October 20th 2010. Comments in this post prompted me to find and read the American Academy of Pediatrics policy statement on Children, Adolescents, and Television which is referred to. I have seen similar guidelines issued in the UK, but my Google-Fu has failed me and I’ve not been able to find those guidelines published anywhere.
It came as a surprise to me on reading the Momlogic article that the familiar “no TV before the age of 2, then a limit of 2 hours per day” guideline also included “entertainment media”, such as the iPhone, as well as television. We are very careful with the geekdaughter’s television watching – she generally has an hour or so a day, and only at teatime – but we are much more relaxed about her access to our iPhones and iPads. She has her own iPhone – my husband’s old and broken one, with no SIM, no Internet connection and a lot of parental controls applied – which we let her play with as and when she chooses, but she’d generally prefer to play with either of our iPads.
I can’t agree with the activities that she undertakes on those devices being included in the same breath as television. I have seen first hand that the geekdaughter would happily spend the whole day sat in front of the television without us exercising some kind of control over her viewing, and I am still shocked by the way kids can be completely “hypnotised” by it. But the iPad/iPhone is an entirely different beast.
My daughter loves listening to stories, putting music on and dancing around, completing jigsaw puzzles, playing “I-Spy”, playing matching pairs, solving maze puzzles, drawing, learning her numbers and letters…. The list goes on. Would any sane parent limit the amount of time spent on all these activities to two hours a day?! Certainly not! Why does it make a difference when they’re done with the iPhone or iPad helping her?
I agree that there are some things one can do with the iPad or iPhone that do instill the same “hypnotised” state as watching the television. And I’m careful to try to limit those activities. But I can’t see how those can be considered the same as the myriad of other activities that can be undertaken. Toddlers these days are going to grow up surrounded by this technology. The geekdaughter was born after the launch of the first iPhone, and the geekson arrived shortly after the first iPad. Part of growing up these days has got to involve learning how to use these great tools.
I’m planning to watch developments in this area with interest. But for the moment I am happy to consider a lot of what my daughter does with these devices to be outside of the two hours per day guidelines.