In 2012, less than 15% children worldwide regularly used tablet computers. That figure jumped by almost three times within the next twelve months. iPads have, in fact, become a vital cog in the whole education technology framework at schools and even creches all over. While there is no point in doubting the utility of iPads for kids, parents also need to take care of the possible adverse effects that these gadgets might have on their little ones. Here are some dangers that the moms and the dads should be wary of:
- Harmful radiations – An iPad consumes nearly 122 times the bandwidth, compared with any standard cell phone (not a smartphone). That, in turn, leads to extremely high microwave radiation levels – which can have serious harmful effects on the health of little children. Risks of even carcinogenic growths cannot be ruled out either. That’s precisely why parents need to tell their wards to take breaks from playing/reading on their iPad apps – however engaging they might be.
- Internet, the big monster – The World wide Web has a good, informative side and unfortunately, a notoriously bad side – thoroughly unsuitable for young users. Surveys have found that close to 60% parents do not know, or cannot be bothered about installing internet filters on the iPads that their kids use. While browsing the web, a child can accidentally stumble upon adult sites – and that’s certainly not what a parent wants!
- Where is the ‘free’ time? – Researches have found that, by the time a child reaches the age of 7, (s)he has already spent close to a year of combined time – in front of television, video game, and here it comes, iPad screens. Now, it’s not even remotely possible that all this ‘love’ for using tablets stems from educational needs. Parents need to stoke the interests of kids in other, more fruitful ways of spending their leisure time. For instance, instead of reading digital stuff on mobile apps for kids, they can buy books online and read them. Going out to play with real buddies on a real playground everyday ain’t a bad idea either!
- Increased dopamine release – For the uninitiated, dopamine is a chemical released by the human body, as a result of heavy drug addiction. Eminent neuroscientists have found that staying cooped up with a tablet for prolonged hours on a daily basis can have much the same effect. Gradually, the tech-addicted kid grows more and more dependent on the gadget screens, and feels at a loss without them. Whenever you download free mobile games or even educational apps for kids, make sure you get the necessary parental app locks installed too. Do not let the iPad become your child’s best friend.
- Lack of patience – In a digitized mobile world, everything happens on a click or a tap. In fact, most Android or iPhone apps for kids are promoted on the basis of how fast and responsive they are. The real world is vastly different though, and patience is a much-valued (and fast-disappearing) virtue here. Parents have to make their children understand that the simulations they see on iPad screens bear no resemblance to reality, and the virtual world is not to be taken as a duplicate of the real one.
- Social awkwardness – Staying with the behavioral problems cropping up from overdependence on technology, many present-generation kids prefer playing video games and tapping on iPad apps for children, instead of meeting their relatives, or even their own classmates/kids from the neighborhood. Apart from maybe his/her own parents, an iPad-addict would find it difficult to strike up a proper conversation with anyone – and as a result, his/her friends count will dwindle. It’s all about maintaining a proper balance between device usage and experiencing the real world.
- Gadget-addiction is the ideal recipe for early obesity – There used to be a time when the phrase ‘couch potato’ was used to refer to people who sat and stared at television screens for hours on end. At present, the same can be said about those children who remain static with their ‘oh-so-sophisticated’ gadgets as well. Over 20% of kids in the US are obese (not solely due to fries and other fast foods!), and it is imperative for parents/instructors to encourage regular physical activity in little ones. Most of the gaming apps for kids currently at stores are engaging, but there is no need to keep tapping on it all day.
- A rising iTunes bill, maybe? – This is not a negative effect of iPads on kids per se. However, with the bustling popularity of freemium apps for children with bundles of in-app purchase options – a young boy/girl can be lured into downloading stuff that (s)he does not really need. Nothing might seem wrong – until you are intimated about the abnormally high iTunes bill for a month. Once again, while looking for kids’ apps, parents should select the ones that have proper child locks. All paid downloads should be done by adults.
- Who’s on the other side? – Mobile app companies release new (and each them more ‘interesting’ than the other) IM applications every quarter. Letting your kid use too many of them would be a plain bad idea – simply because there is no way of ruling out the chance that a perverted pedophile is not on the other end. In any case, a 3-5 year old child does not need privacy while chatting with his little friends. Advise them to avoid sharing personal details on the web, to unknown people. Do not encourage photo or video-sharing via apps either. They might be misused.
- Many of the iPad apps are plain gimmicky – The best iPhone apps for kids invariably come with loads of interactive games, puzzles and activities. Before you conclude that such apps are indeed fostering the analytical skills of your child (as promised), consider this: if the same games could have been played offline, wouldn’t it have been better? Playing scrabble with parents instead of competing with the iPad, or actually playing building blocks instead of making digital sketches – a manual touch is always more beneficial for a young child. The inordinate craving for technology as a playmate is moderated too.
- Decrease in attention spans – There’s life beyond screen freezes and app crashes on an iPads, but you’ll have a hard time telling your tech-addicted child that. Tablets (in fact, any gadget that involve mechanical interactivity) gradually worsens the attention span of children. They start growing restless, which, in turn affects their general home and classroom behavior (including academic performances). It is vital to go for useful reading apps for kids that would help the little ones concentrate, rather than the run-of-the-mill racing games or treasure hunts. Even on the iPad, your child should have something ‘new’ to do, some interesting stuff to learn, every day.
- ‘I will not give you the iPad’ – The insistent shriek that many parents have to hear everyday, as their children request for that extra hour of iPad gaming. For kids in the 2-4 age range, doctors advise that the average screen time should not exceed 15-20 minutes at one go. However, thanks to the addictive effect of iPads, you are likely to have a battle on your hands, while trying to get the gadget back – maybe because you need it, or maybe it is sleep-time for your baby. Before handing the iPad to your child the first time, install app-locks in it. Make a deal with him/her about the number of minutes (s)he will use the iPad continuously.
You might have noticed by now that we have, not in any way, discouraged the use of iPads by kids. It is great to make children tech-savvy from an early stage, and there are loads of learning resources that can be accessed via tablet computer. With most parents having busy professional lives of their own, iPad apps for kids can be a good companion for children as well. What we have pointed out is that, overuse of iPads (like, well, every good thing in life!) is a bad thing, and can have several health, behavioral, and psychological ill-effects. Gift your child an iPad if you want, but don’t let the device become his/her life.
After all, you do not want your son/daughter get cranky whenever (s)he cannot lay his/her hands on an iPad, right?