Digital Devices and Kids

At What Age Can Kids Use an iPad?

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Sure your toddler can operate an iPad, but at what age is it safe to let her? According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children under the age of 2 should have no screen time at all. This includes not only television but other electronics as well, such as computers, cell phones, video games and tablets, including the iPad. During the first two years of life, children's brains are growing so significantly and it can be confusing for them to differentiate the real world from what they are seeing on the screen. After age 2, an iPad is fine in moderation.

Benefits

Using the iPad can have benefits for kids. PC World even named the iPad as Toy of the Year in 2010. In a two-week study conducted by PBS, involving children 3 to 7, it was found that educational apps can improve a child's vocabulary by as much as 31 percent in two weeks. Ann Densmore, an expert in speech and language development, said in an article on Harvard Health that there are even iPad apps that are helpful for children in speech and language therapy.

Dangers

While there are some benefits to children using an iPad as an educational tool, there are also some dangers to be aware of. No electronic device can replace the role of human interaction. It's important that young children learn by doing and not by watching, according to pediatrician Howard J. Bennett of Chevy Chase Pediatrics, in a 2012 The Washington Post article. He also warns that an iPad can be addictive when used too much. Even though it's okay for your 2-year old to use an iPad, children up to the age of 3 will learn better from real world experiences than from any type of electronics, especially when it comes to language.

Rules

When you decide to let your child start using the iPad, it's important that you establish some rules and limitations. You will need limit the amount of time he is allowed to spend using the iPad. Mayo Clinic and The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests limiting all screen time to one to two hours per day, this includes iPad, television and any other electronics combined. Preview all apps before you allow your child to use them, to ensure they are age-appropriate. When you're little one is using the iPad, use it with him, talk about what is happening and ask open-ended questions. This will make the time he is using an iPad more beneficial.

Issues With Child Rearing

Discipline

Whether your preschooler is throwing a tantrum, your grade-schooler is talking back or your seventh-grader keeps slamming her door, discipline is a major issue when it comes to child-rearing. According to the child development experts at the Kids Health website, consistency is key when it comes to using effective discipline strategies with children of any age. This often translates into creating, and enforcing, age-appropriate rules that illustrate expected behavior as well as clear consequences. For example, instead of simply telling your fifth-grader to do her homework, tell her that the rule is as follows, "You must do your homework after school before you do anything else such as talk on the phone or go online. If you don't follow this rule you will lose your phone privileges for the rest of the day."

School

Unless you choose to home-school your child, you will have to deal with at least some issues when it comes to your little one's formal education. The American Academy of Pediatrics Healthy Children website notes that parents should involve themselves in their child's education. This means that instead of leaving schooling to your child's teachers, you should acquaint yourself with what he is learning and ask the school what you can do to help the process. Raising a child often means communicating often with your child's teacher and ensuring that he is on the right track when it comes to his education.

Health Issues

Having a child might also equal having to deal with health issues. While most families might only have to handle the more typical types of health dilemmas such as the common cold or a sprained ankle, some parents and children might face more severe issues that range from developmental delays to major infections. Before breaking into a sweat over a possible illness or deciding that your own parental assessment is acceptable, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends consulting your child's pediatrician for advice if you have any worries about new or seemingly abnormal medical symptoms.

Media

Many people have an effect on your child's behavior and actions. These include you, other family members, teachers and friends. Additionally, the media often plays a key role in shaping what your child thinks and does. In an effort to mitigate possible ill-effects from media exposure, the American Academy of Pediatrics Healthy Children website recommends that parents set limits on screen time -- limiting it to only an hour or two each day, provide alternative activities to TV or the computer, and screen TV shows with and for your child.

Cellphone Rules for Teens

Location

Your teen should not feel free to use his cellphone at any time. You won't want your child to make or receive calls at certain times, including meal times and after bedtime. If your teen drives, strictly enforce not using a cellphone while driving. Dr. Mark D. Fox, associate dean for Community Health and Research Development at the University of Oklahoma School of Community Medicine concurs. “Any texting while driving has an adverse impact on driving performance among teenage drivers under simulated conditions,” he said. Breaking the rules should result in losing the phone for a pre-specified time. According to a study published in the "Journal of Pediatric Psychology," late-night teen cellphone use is linked to mental health problems, so require your teen to charge his phone somewhere such as the kitchen or living room so he isn't up talking late at night.

Frequency

While some cellphone plans have unlimited minutes, most companies slap restrictions on how many minutes can be used to make calls to customers out of the cell network. The same rule applies to using minutes during peak hours compared to nights and weekends. Shared family plans are also common and you should explain the concept of sharing minutes with other family members. Alternatively, buy a pre-paid phone and only put a certain amount of time on it each month. When the minutes are gone, your teen is out until the next month.

Capabilities

Cellphones aren't restricted to only being used to call people. Phones text, take pictures, have games and provide access to the Internet. Be clear about what is and is not acceptable. Examine your plan closely to know whether extra charges are occurring for downloading data or accessing certain features.

Privacy

You can view your teen's call log through your mobile provider's website or the monthly bill, and you can also view how many text or media messages are sent. You might also want to enforce a rule that permits you to look through the phone at any time, but this depends on how trusting the relationship is between you and your teen.

Signs That Your Child Is Addicted to Media

Mental Health Issues

Children with underlying mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety and attention problems are at a higher risk for developing a media addiction. A study published in "Pediatrics" in January of 2011 found that video game addictions not only increase existing mental health problems, but also can cause new problems to develop. The study concluded that depression, anxiety and social phobia could result from video game addictions. Researchers also found that children with a history of video game addictions experience more ongoing mental health problems, even after resolving their addiction, when compared to children who never developed a video game addiction.

Poor School Performance

Although children often want to use the Internet for educational purposes, the internet can actually contribute to academic problems. Between 8 percent and 12 percent of U.S. children are addicted to the Internet, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. The Internet and online gaming can distract children from completing their schoolwork. Too much TV can interfere with healthy sleeping habits. Children with a media addiction are likely to be resistant about going to bed and may have difficulties waking up in time for school, according to MayoClinic.com.

Social Isolation

Children who become addicted to media are likely to become socially isolated. Instead of spending time with friends and family, they spend countless hours behind computer or TV screens. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, reality-based games seem to be especially addicting because they draw children into a "second life" where they often exchange real-life relationships for online interactions. The American Academy of Pediatrics also found that children who become pathological gamers tend to have poorer relationships with their parents.

Behavior Problems

A media addiction is likely to contribute to behavior problems. Children who become addicted to video games tend to choose games that are more violent over time. Playing aggressive games or watching violent media content has been associated with aggressive fantasies and increased aggressive behavior, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Children who watch excessive amounts of TV are more likely to bully their peers. Exposure to video games also increases a child's risk for developing attention problems, according to MayoClinic.com.