Could tablets give your children behavioural problems? Maybe, says the New York Daily News: it reports that according to a late 2011 survey of parents in the UK and US, 15% of children aged three to eight had used their parents' iPad, nine percent had their own iPad, and 20% had their own iPod. 77% of the parents surveyed said that they believed tablets were beneficial for their children and that the gadgets helped to develop children's creativity.
Are they wrong? The headlines suggest that there's a huge controversy, but actually things are a lot more sensible: nobody's saying that tablets are bad, but they're warning that parents should ensure that tablet usage is part of a wider mix. "It's definitely about balance," says Rosemarie Truglio from children's TV producers Sesame Workshop. "Interactive doesn't mean educational."
Few of us would argue that using a tablet as an electronic babysitter for long periods of time is a really bad idea, but tablets can be a boon too: there are lots of educational applications for children of all ages, ranging from simple word games to multimedia dinosaur encyclopedias. Some apps, such as The Elements, take potentially dry and dusty material and make it utterly compelling, and the growing market for ebooks should see even more useful apps that can educate as well as entertain children. Even Angry Birds has some merit - it's all about planning angles and strategies - although of course we wouldn't recommend letting the kids play it for hours on end instead of interacting with other children and adults.
The trick, says author Lisa Guernsey, is to trust your gut: "Can they focus on a conversation, not look at a screen for 30 minutes?" Used correctly, tablets can be great educational tools as well as toys.
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