The iPad: A Parenting Tool?
Dec 15 2011

The following is a guest post by Brittany Lyons.  She aspires to be a psychology professor and is currently a blogger for an online PhD program.  She wants to help people learn to navigate the academic lifestyle.  She currently lives in Spokane, Washington, where she spends her time reading science fiction and walking her dog.

The iPad: A Parenting Tool?

The new age of mobile devices has influenced the way parents interact with their children. Even the youngest of children are often allowed to play with their parent’s cell phones, and now the iPad has been thrown into the mix. However, just as with any toy or device, allowing children to use an iPad has both its advantages and disadvantages.

An iPad can benefit children and help parents in several ways. It entertains children endlessly, and there are a number of games and apps are available that children of all ages to play. Besides serving as means for staving off boredom, the iPad can also be used as an educational tool. As educators and those with PhDs have discovered, mathematics lessons, alphabet practice and other activities make the iPad a useful addition for a learning environment. As a result, many schools even begun incorporating the iPad into classrooms to stimulate and reach children that may not respond to traditional teaching methods.

iPads can also be used to assist special needs child. The article “Adapting to the iPad, Called ‘Education’s ‘Equalizer’,” on, details how apps are available to help students with ADHD become more organized. For example, children can use iPad videos to learn how to perform daily tasks, such as hand-washing or getting dressed. Additionally, parents of autistic children have discovered that the iPad attracts their children’s attention like no other mobile or computer device. Autistic children are drawn to the stability and predictability of the iPad, and it allows them to feel safer than they do when interacting with a human.  [Comment from Aruni:  A friend of mine is behind an organization called Special Needs Apps for Kids so please check it out. SNApps4Kids is a volunteer community of parents, therapists, doctors, and teachers who share information on how we are using the iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch and Android devices with children who have special needs.]

Finally, while computer games and video games have often been used by therapists to improve hand-eye coordination, the iPad provides a high-tech alternative. There are a variety of games that can be played on the device that allow children to practice tracking objects visually before touching them on the screen. Better yet, not only do these games enable children to strengthen their fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination, but they also let kids learn academic material while having fun.

Despite all of the ways parents can use an iPad to help their children learn, there are risks associated with the device. Children may become dependent on the iPad and shun their peers and toys. This attachment can lead to temper tantrums when the parent tries to take the iPad away from the child. Similarly, the iPad does not encourage communication with other people, which is an important social skill for children to learn. The device also distracts children from playing imaginative games or from going outside to play. A final risk of letting children play with an iPad is the cost involved. Even if is a child is very careful when handing an iPad, there is a chance that they may break this expensive device.

Ultimately an iPad cannot replace a parent, so parents need to ensure that they interact with their children throughout the day. Parents should make a point to talk to their kids about how school is going and discuss homework assignments. Encourage family togetherness by playing board games or sports as a group. By avoiding using the iPad as a bribe or as the sole source of entertainment, parents will soon find a nice balance that can help their child learn and grow without interfering with other developing skills.

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