We introduced the iPad early on in my daughter’s life. As soon as her motor and cognitive skills started developing, her tiny little fingers were serving for more than just grabbing random items to put in her mouth, they were serving to discover by trial and error how to use this fascinating electronic device which never fails to respond and often has something new to offer… our tiny little one was reaching out to the cyberworld! Before she was one year old, she was able to navigate it like a pro, switching from apps, to pictures, to filming short videos, to snapping so many bizarre selfies and then to cartoon watching on YouTube!
We were aware of the potential negative impacts of tablets on young kids ranging from attention deficit problems, to vision problems, to the development of sedentary and anti-social habits, therefore we tried to limit the time she spent with her magic tablet to a strict minimum. We had an initial rule of offering her the iPad only as a last resort to keep her calm and entertained when there was a need to get some things done and no help was around. With time, the rule started to bend gradually to accommodate her increasing demand for attention and stimulation coinciding with the increasing demands of our daily routine which was leaving us with less and less energy and time to interact with her as she grew older. Since we were under the impression that it was working wonders with her educationally and intellectually (I can’t say that I’m not still impressed by some of the things that Le Petit Genie app has taught her) and more specifically in providing her with a more fulsome exposure to French which we worried she was lacking in New York, we started to let go … and then the iPad quickly took control.
Today my daughter is 2 and the first thing she asks for when she wakes up at 6:30am is her iPad. She wants to watch her all-time favorite cartoon “L’âne Trotro”, or play with “Talking Anya” the doll which repeats what the child says (and will give you the most insane headache!).
I understood that the iPad became problematic when she started preferring it over her toys and books and was asking for it all the time. On one particular occasion that I remember vividly, we were strolling outdoors and she asked me to go back home to “watch on iPad”! (I immediately teared up). Lately what was even more alarming is that she started demanding to eat while in front of the screen. The idea that I (nutritionist) am setting my daughter on a sedentary (couch potato) path with the innumerable health detriments that go with it started to horrify me.
Tablets are still a relatively new gadget and since my daughter’s generation is the first to get exposed to them at such an early age, there aren’t enough studies to scientifically prove the many potential risks on a developing kid’s body and mind. That being said, there’s no need for studies or research to notice that this tablet, despite its interactive nature, will, without strict control, end up causing the same detrimental effects that unmonitored TV and video games’ consumption by kids has been known to cause for some time now (ADD, eating disorders and social problems included).
I can’t say that there weren’t times recently when I was so discouraged by the iPad’s take-over that I even flirted with the idea of getting rid of it altogether, but technology is here to stay and my daughter will be part of a generation which is bound to incorporate it increasingly into every aspect of their lives (whether it is for work, to connect with other or for entertainment), therefore rather than inhibiting her ability to learn to interact with it and risk putting her at an unfair disadvantage which may cause its own social issues for her growing up, I decided to enforce some structure on her relationship with the iPad and hopefully this will teach her how to keep those boundaries with technology throughout her life.
Therefore, I decided, as a pre-2014 resolution, that a strict rule for using the iPad for no more than 1 hour/day is warranted and no food is allowed during that time. I was also happy to learn today, by doing some research for this post, that there are recently released guidelines by the American Academy of Pediatrics which encourage parents to limit entertainment screen time to less than one or two hours per day and in children under 2, the guidelines discourage screen media exposure altogether. Therefore, my resolution seems to be in line with their recommendation.
So genius apps and French cartoons will just have to stand in line as my daughter’s health is taking center stage! Pray for me! I’ll keep you posted with how this resolution pans out!
Oups, alarm clock ringing! Time for me to go back to my little one…