It is increasingly prevalent these days; children as young as three are utterly engrossed with their iPads or other digital devices.
In a survey done by Nielsen Wire in 2011, seven out of 10 children under 12 use tablet computers. At least 77% of these children use tablets to download and play games while 57% use them to access educational applications. Parents often use the device to keep their children occupied while travelling or at a restaurant.
The survey also found, perhaps surprisingly, that using tablets to communicate with others is rather uncommon. Thus, from this it is clear that keeping children entertained is a far more popular function than using them as learning tools.
What is less surprising is that child psychologists and parents seem to be divided on the issue of placing these gadgets in the possession of such young hands. This is based on the argument that the first couple of years are vital to proper child development. The tablet however, definitely has its place and function as an educational tool via educational apps, especially in the current digital age.
Despite this, many psychologists are recommending that tablets be kept away, at least for the first two ‘critical’ years of a child’s life. By spending too much time on a digital device, they say, kids are only using and developing their visual and audio senses. The children might be neglecting the equally important taste, smell and touch experiences. No “app” out there can replace the value of taking actual toy blocks and learning how to stack them on top of one another correctly.
As in most things, the children’s usage of the tablets should be in moderation and closely monitored. Parents should also make agreements with their children on when they could use the tablets and for how long, ensuring that they abide by the agreement as well.
A mother can allow her daughter to use the iPad only on Saturdays and for 30 to 45 minutes each time. The moments spent with the tablet can also be used as platforms to bond with children. If parents sit with their child as they use the educational apps, the tablet becomes a bridge between family members.
It is important to prevent tablets and other such devices from forming sedentary and mind-numbing lifestyles for children.
Kids have to be encouraged to participate in physically and mentally wholesome activities. Not only can they pick up different skills and discover their innate talents this way, the social interaction involving other kids their age is also vital.
In addition, there is no substitute to instil the spirit and value of teamwork, effective communication and interpersonal skills within them from young.
At REAL Kids, such value-added and “hands-on” activities are the norm. These include Arts and Craft, CALIT (computer lessons), speech and drama, ballet, taekwondo, swimming and others.
For busy working parents, REAL Kids also provide a full day programme option (from 8am to 6pm) that offers additional enhancement activities such as culinary lessons, a REAL Readers Club, Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar.
So, rather than having tablet devices “babysitting” the child, why not have him or her immersed in educational or sporting activities that are fun, healthy and hands-on instead? For details, visit www.realkids.edu.my or call 03-5631 8000.