kids smartphones

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Kids want smartphones. Parents hesitate at the idea. Can it be a good thing for both?

Most parents agree, there’s no gadget in the world that equals the value of childhood imagination and hands-on playtime for kids. Nature, physical exercise and one-on-one playtime provide the best learning environments, for toddlers to teenagers. However, the versatile and amazing smartphone is soaring in popularity with parents as a fun and inspiring learning tool for kids, not to mention its qualities as a handy and fascinating baby-sitter.

A recent study revealed that one in five parents uses a smartphone or tablet to keep their children distracted while running errands. Eating out in restaurants can be a more pleasant experience for parents whose kids are occupied with games, learning apps or music on the smartphone. But, it’s still early in our mobile culture. Parents have questions. Is it good for kids to be on these devices at an early age? Is mobile learning as valuable as classroom learning? Can mobile learning be harmful?


Smartphone Learning

Smartphone apps for learning math, reading, writing, drawing, history, and hundreds of topics across the grade levels, are downloadable with a click. A San Francisco mom reported that her kindergartner advanced an entire grade level from playing with her smartphone! Hard to argue with that. magazine points out that, decades ago, Sesame Street proved that television learning could be productive and fun. Mobile learning is simply the next step in technology, and who could argue its convenience? In the car, grocery store, plane, coffee shop and even at home, parents are modifying their children’s behavior by handing them a smartphone or tablet. At the same time, mobile kids get to enjoy an enhanced learning session.


What’s Not So Good?

Some people feel smartphone learning is rough on children’s eyes, and that staring at a screen discourages face-to-face interactions with their peers and family. Parents and educators worry about over-stimulating a child who may want to spend hours on a smartphone rather than playing outside. Some suspect that a child’s overall development could be jeopardized by spending too much time on a mobile device. Teenage addiction to smartphones is also getting a lot of press. These are certainly all valid concerns, and deserve some consideration. So, what’s the solution?


Finding a Happy Medium

Our common sense tells us not to let children spend hours staring at a small screen, regardless of the learning potential. A well-balanced childhood involves plenty of exercise and play time with peers and family. But, face it, smartphones and tablets are becoming an integral part of kids’ lives.

Rather than resisting the notion, let’s make it a priority to choose our kids’ apps carefully, and limit the amount of time they spend looking at any screen – including television. Encourage outdoor play and quiet time to rest the brain. Practicing moderation will keep technology from take over your kids’ lives, but will add an awesome component to their education.


Tips for Parents of Young Smartphone Users

  • Explain to your children that screen-learning must be balanced with other activities, and limit their smartphone or table time. Set daily limits early, and stick to them. Use your mobile device as a babysitter as seldom as possible.
  • Choose credible apps that offer a legitimate educational component. Games are fine, but try to find apps that teach and expand your child’s growing brain.
  • Talk to your kids about what they’re learning from their smartphone apps. Ask them questions, and check out the apps yourself and get involved in their activities. Don’t let your young kids isolate themselves for too long with a smartphone or tablet.
  • Consider using parental controls to ensure your child is protected from the bad stuff and can only access the good stuff at appropriate times. You can also monitor your child’s location and allow your child to alert you when he needs you.