Experts Warn Against Digital 'Babysitters'

By WGBH News

Oct. 20, 2011

child with iPad

Children today pick up using tablets and touch-screen devices as if they were born to it. (michaelaion/Flickr)

BOSTON — With children as young as 2 picking up and easily playing with iPhones and iPads these days, parents are understandably concerned about what effects the new handheld and mobile devices will have.

Tim Monroe is head of school at the Sage School for gifted children in Foxborough, Mass. Like many other educators, he is faced with integrating the new technology into the classroom. He talked with WGBH Radio's Bob Seay about that challenge and gave some advice for parents.

At Sage, every second grader has been given an iPad to use for part of the day, Monroe said: “What we’re trying to do this year is figure out [if] mobile devices enhance learning in the school setting. And so far the results are pretty good.”
He thought it was key that parents supervise their children’s screen time and not use these devices as digital “babysitters.”
Dr. Michael Rich, who directs the Center on Media and Child Health at Children's Hospital Boston, agreed in an October 20 conversation with Jared Bowen, guest host of “The Emily Rooney Show."
When considering the effects of mobile devices on children, Rich said, “The first thing is to think about what the child is doing on it and for how long. If it is simply to distract them so you can get dinner on the table or take a shower, that’s probably not the right choice to make. … There are alternative activities that kids can do that will keep them just as happy, like giving them a bunch of pots and pans and a wooden spoon while you’re making dinner.”
When a child is allowed to use an iPhone or iPad as a distraction, “it teaches them that this is the default position for downtime,” Rich said.
Hear the complete conversation on "The Emily Rooney Show."

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