Toddlers And iPads: Do Or Do Not

The other day, I read an article about toddlers using iPads. According to the article, many believe that using apps on the iPad will help children learn.

The writer, Ben Worthen, confirmed that his son’s knowledge of words improved when he started using an iPad regularly. But he was also concerned as he began to notice that his son would zone out when using the iPad. It also became harder for him to put it down at bedtime. So he finally decided to stop giving it to him.

There is not enough research yet to know what kind of impact using an iPad has on children. We try to avoid too much TV and video games because of behavioral consequences later on. But we just do not know yet whether using an iPad is detrimental or not.

I have to confess that I have given Livi my old iPhone during especially challenging diaper changes. She does not use any apps but simply tries to turn it on. We also use my husband’s iPad to keep her occupied when I trim her finger nails because otherwise it would be impossible to do.

So I guess I use it for emergencies only. But still, I do expose her to it and she has been asking for it more often lately.

If it were up to my husband, we would use the iPad to teach her about animals and letters and music. But so far I am still reluctant and feel it is better to interact with her directly rather than through an app.

But what if we were to use the iPad instead of a chalkboard and would still do all the teaching ourselves? Would that make a difference? Or are we doomed regardless because we are after all still using a screen.

What do you think? Do you let your toddler use an iPad? Have you noticed any change in behavior? Does your kid use an iPad on a regular basis, only during “emergencies,” or never? If you have an iPad or even a smartphone in the house, does your kid ask for it? How do you handle it? If a toddler is still too young, what age is old enough?

Flickr Photo by Henriksent

29 comments on “Toddlers And iPads: Do Or Do Not

  1. merelymothers says:

    Call me old-fashioned, but I, personally, think toddlers are too young for electronics of any sort! My daughter loves our iPhones, cordless phones, remote controls, computer mouse, etc., and I can see why! Lots of flashing lights, buttons, noises…but *educational benefit*?? I think not.

    As you mention, it’s best to avoid TV at this age, so doesn’t it make sense to avoid other electronics that have a similar effect, like iPads?

    • hnMom says:

      I also think that iPads would have a similar impact as watching TV. You mention that your daughter loves your iPhones and other electronic “toys.” So what do you do when she asks for it or gets ahold of one? Do you let her play with it or do you take it away?

      • merelymothers says:

        When my daughter does get to one of the electronics, I do take it back from her. I’ve been firm from the beginning that these things are “not for babies,” so she generally doesn’t fight it. I also give her a ridiculous amount of praise when she complies 🙂 It works for us!

      • hnMom says:

        Yes, we use a similar approach, especially the praises seem to work quite well. 🙂

  2. iPads or computers can be very addicting for small children…and grown men like me. But I have found several very good apps which I use to teach my children reading telling the time and about animals. The point here is the parent needs to sit with their child and teach them and not let them play with it all alone. Just like regular school you wouldn’t hand an activity sheet to your child and then leave them alone. For my older son I set a time for when he can use it just for fun and he knows that when I tell him that time is up, then time is up. There is no complaining and moping about it. Just like television, we choose what shows they are allowed to watch and we actually watch very little. I’m not so worried about it having a negative effect on my kids. as we spend most of the day outdoors exploring and playing together and of course most of our school is done with good old paper and pencil or cardboard flashcards etc. I think moderation and parents being involved in what the child is doing with the device is the key. Every child is different and I’m sure you will find the right balance.

    • hnMom says:

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Interacting with your child while using an app is definitely different from just handing the iPad over.

  3. i am charm says:

    hi. i think we are in the era that gadgets are part of this generation’s childhood. my 2-yr old daughter plays and learns from our iPhone. but we make sure she has enough playtime outside the house, playing with other kids.

    as for the sleep time, it’s the children’s shows that makes me argh! 🙂 so what i did is, i make it a habit that after i give her a bedtime bath and i already tucked in beside her, close the light and say a little prayer, then we need to sleep. no iphone, no laptop, no tv.

    i’m just fortunate that she’s tired because afternoon, she got to play in the playground.

    • hnMom says:

      Thank you for commenting. Playing outside is definitely the best way for kids to spend their time. I am not too familiar with the various TV shows since we don’t let Livi watch any TV but from what I have heard, some can be really annoying.

      • i am charm says:

        yes. but i brought her dvd’s of mickey mouse, dora and hi-5. well, i think so far it teaches good lessons to kids… my daughter loves to dance so i let her watch these shows. 🙂

  4. I never even thought of using the iPad to teach her stuff. Hmmmm. What a great concept. Something to look into. I’m curious to see what kind of educational apps they have.

    I have a tip for you, re: baby manicures and pedicures. I really found this tough, especially at the beginning. I was forever clipping Bubbs’s skin, which made her bleed and made the 2 of us cry. So then I moved on to a nail file, which is just so difficult to do with a wiggling baby/toddler. And then I found this electric nail file by Zoli ( It works like a charm. I sit her on my lap, throw on Baby TV on my laptop in front of us, and set to work on her nails. It has really saved my sanity when it comes to manis and pedis!

    • hnMom says:

      Well, I haven’t really tried it myself because I am reluctant to use the iPad with her, unlike my husband.

      Thanks so much for the tip about the electric nail file. I’ll have to check that out. I also cut her skin the very first time and never tried again. Trimming her nails has been feared by all in this house ever since.

      • Nail trimming used to be my least favorite thing to do. It was impossible to get her to stay still, I clipped her skin a few times, and using a nail file wasn’t much easier. In fact, it was a longer process, so it was almost impossible the way she wiggled. I saw the electric nail file at a specialty store for about $25 and figured it couldn’t hurt to try, and I was so amazed with how much easier it made the whole process. The only complaint I have is that it sucks batteries like crazy. It only takes one battery, but that battery only lasts 2 sessions. The batteries aren’t dead after, but the power behind the file just isn’t sufficient enough to get the job done quickly enough .So, I just save those batteries for her toys as those suckers run out too!

      • hnMom says:

        Great tips. I will try to remember the part about the batteries. Thank you so much, this will help tremendously.

      • My pleasure. 🙂 Let me know if you find one and if you have luck with it!

  5. mycrackedpot says:

    It’s like you’re inside my head. We’ve opted for no tv (except the occasional football game merely because they’re simply too long to keep our son otherwise occupied) and have kept our son away from our iPads/iPhones but the more I hear others praise their educational benefits, the more I question, although my son does like to steal mine to try to turn it on by sliding the bar. My husband has one app with aesops fables where he can spin the wheel and then my husband reads the story that it lands on during bedtime but that’s as far as we’re willing to go and since getting our iPads his interest has really spiked in the phones/iPads and he does really zone when trying to play with them. I usually take it away when he gets ahold of it and say that it isn’t his to play with, although if it’s just trying to turn it on and off I also sometimes let him play with it as a brief distraction.

    • hnMom says:

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts. It is really difficult to take anything away from her once she gets ahold of it. So it’s best avoided. Isn’t it amazing how every single child seems to be drawn to these smartphones and gadgets.

  6. I don’t let my 2yo access our gadgets. We don’t have ipads but we have iphones and laptops. I think that all the benefits that apps provide kids can be attained through other ways so I don’t see it as a necessity.

    • hnMom says:

      That was always my attitude but my husband doesn’t quite agree so I was curious to hear from others. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  7. the speech monster says:

    I think the educational benefits outweigh other bad habits that might be able to be controlled。I use my iPad for work n have used it in therapy with kids as young as 4. Giving a 2yo might be slightly early. In saying that however I have started allowing benji tub watch 10 mins of baby signing DVD s, my husband n I also talked about a no TV rule for benj until he’s maybe ten. Buy iPads will be ok at least I can control what he has access to more than the tv

    • hnMom says:

      Now that is an interesting aspect I had not thought of. How exactly do you use the iPad in therapy? What kind of apps do you use if any?

  8. Oster's Mom says:

    Oster (1 year old) has been using an IPAD for a couple of months. What does “using an IPAD” look like for him:
    – he has three books on it (It’s a Small World, Freight Train, and Curious George)
    – he has three different French flash card apps
    – he has one numerical app
    – he has one English alphabet app

    He is allowed to use it (with him on my lap) for no more than 5 minutes at a time. And he is only to use it 3 days out of 7; so he actually only uses it for 15 minutes a week!

    Being a technology teacher, I feel it is important for him to learn how to utilize this piece of equipment and understand how to interact with the software. He is not allowed to play any sort of games and I never give it to him for “babysitting” purposes. I am always with him and I prompt/praise/enforce vocabulary during his “sessions”.

    My son is not allowed to use our smart phone. There has been so many studies about how using a cell phone can affect the child’s brain development. I haven’t read any recent articles, but hearing about it many times during my pregnancy and really him not needing to make any phone calls makes this choice quite simple for us.

    • hnMom says:

      Good point about smart phones and cell phones in general. The only thing you could do is turn on airplane mode, I guess.
      Interesting ideas for the use of an iPad and the duration. Thanks for your input. 🙂

  9. 4eyedblonde says:

    Boy has my opinion of the use of “technology” during childhood changed since having children of my own!! I fretted over t.v. and computer while my son was still little but now I just go with the flow. It’s a matter of survival for me and I make no apologies in allowing him to watch a little t.v. (admittedly sometimes “a little” turns into “more than I would have liked but we’ll do better tomorrow”) and use my iPad to keep him occupied so that I can get things done around the house or take care of the baby. I think it’s all a matter of opinion and what feels best for your child. I think if you monitor what they are doing on the iPad and make sure that what they are doing is age appropriate, beneficial, and educational you are okay. But if you begin to see things in your child that you don’t like, make changes – as with anything else. Everything is trial and error.

    • hnMom says:

      You make some very good points. I don’t even know yet how I could possibly take care of Livi with another child around.
      I like your approach – go with the flow, do the best you can, and if something doesn’t work, change it.

  10. Oster's Mom says:

    Hi. I’ve just passed on the Mrs. Sparlky’s Ten Commandments Award to you. Have an awesome day. See

  11. Deni Lyn says:

    We have resorted to several iPhone apps when we are in public and a meltdown is coming. They are short educational apps and that’s the only time the kid uses the phone. However, he already knows the phone is some kinda’ wonderful because he’s quite keen to get his mitts on it as much as possible. I think it’s probably child and parent dependent. Just right for one child could create too much overstimulation in another. I would imagine smartphones/tablets/TV/Computers have their place as an interactive, interesting teaching tool when parents are involved. . .and in small doses. We are bombarded with media from all sorts of sources everyday. It’s not going away. I don’t necessarily want to shield my child from it so much as I feel a responsibility to show him how to use it appropriately and to think critically about the messages, etc.

    • hnMom says:

      Great thoughts, as always. You make a good point when you say that it depends on the child. What’s right for one, isn’t necessarily for another.
      I especially like and agree with your last though: teach them how to use it appropriately. Just shielding them won’t do any good once they are exposed to it somewhere else or later in life, when we expect them to make smart decisions for themselves.

  12. My two cents on this issue. I let my toddler play games in limited qualities like this simply animal app and it seemed to stimulate his interest in going to the zoo and animals when he got older. I’d say technology in moderation, like everything else, is the best recommendation.

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