IPad parenting is the practice of letting technology such as iPads and laptop and tablet computers occupy, entertain, and educate children such that there is reduced need for parent-child interaction. Use of these technologies can make more enjoyable family travel time, time in a restaurant waiting for food to arrive, or other time that might otherwise be labeled by children as “boring” and thus be an opportunity for misbehavior just for something to do. However, use of this technology is an imperfect solution. Read on to reap the benefits and limit the risks of this technology use.
The technological advances represented in iPads and laptop and table computers have made parents’ job easier in many respects. Children have access to more information, and it’s at their fingertips, with milliseconds of wait time from request for information to delivery of information. That makes this new generation better informed (or having the opportunity to be so) than any prior generation. The technology is also helpful for keeping children occupied and entertained when they would otherwise experience discontent and boredom. This keeps children from misbehaving to keep themselves occupied, that keeps parents from needless frustration, and the parent-child connection is not harmed by frequent parental redirection of children’s behavior. (You know what we’re talking about here: parents whose most common sentences are “sit down”, “please be quiet”, “don’t do that”, and “oh my God”.)
However, parents can abuse the conveniences of these technologies by relying too heavily on them. Children have inquiring minds; they are filled with questions like “what is . . . “, “why does . . “, etc. While parents in prior generations would answer these questions by providing the information to their children or helping their children research the information, parents today can merely point their children to the technology and instruct the children to discover the information for themselves. This teaches the children to exhibit independence and initiative, but it also teaches children that they can accomplish their objectives with minimal (if any) human interaction. Children’s teamwork and social skills can suffer. Further, parents become less aware of what is happening in the lives of their children. At the extreme, parents become significantly out of touch with who their children are as people, and children become unable to or uncomfortable with sustained or consistent human interaction (computer interfacing may be more comfortable for them).
To reap the benefits and limit the risks of this technology use, parents should balance the technology use and human interaction. For example, if a child asks his/her parent why the sky is blue, the parent may say that s/he does not know but would like to learn that information too. The parent can ask the child to do an Internet search for the information and read aloud to the parent what information is provided by the website the child chooses. By handling the situation in this manner, the child can have immediate access to the information requested, the parent can learn the information as well, and the parent and child can have a successful interaction with each other. Further, the parent may use this opportunity as a springboard for further interaction. The parent may suggest a family field trip to the local planetarium or an evening outside to watch the sky turn from blue to orange to black as daylight turns to dusk and then to darkness.
By balancing technology use and human interaction, parents can reap the benefits and limit the risks of “iPad parenting”.