Finding Balance for Those Tech Savvy Kids

Put a smartphone or a tablet in a kid’s hands and you’ll be amazed at what they can do.

I’m still trying to figure out the new smartphone I got at the beginning of this month, but my four-year-old daughter has a pretty good handle on the kids mode.

I let her play with it one Saturday afternoon. Two hours later, she was taking photos, adding funny glasses, eyes and hats to photos, playing all the games and much more.

I shouldn’t be surprised. Before she was two, she was showing me features on my old phone that I didn’t know were there – cascading photos and applying different photo filters. I looked over her shoulder and said, “Wow, I didn’t know my phone could do that.”

Last Christmas, I decided it was time for her to get her own tablet and stop playing with my smartphone. I looked at the various educational toddler tablets as well as Apple and Amazon products. After chatting with friends whose kids had both, I opted to get her an Amazon Fire HD.

Her response when she opened it that Christmas morning was a little disappointing to me. She was more excited about her Disney Frozen Anna and Elsa dolls that her shiny new tablet. But that’s OK. I would rather see her use her imagination during play than have her glued to a screen.

Over the weekend, I charged the tablet and loaded it with entertaining and educational apps. One helpful resource to learn about new and free apps is Smart Apps for Kids. The website’s Free App Fridays lists numerous apps for toddlers to adolescents. I haven’t spent a dime on apps yet, but I’ve been tempted by some of the phonetics and reading apps.

There’s a healthy debate about children and screen time. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents establish “screen-free” zones at home by making sure there are no televisions, computers or video games in children’s bedrooms, and by turning off the TV during dinner. They suggest limiting media to no more than one or two hours per day and encouraging kids to play outdoors, reading and use their imaginations in free play.

We try to strike a balance in our household. No televisions or tablets in the kids’ bedrooms and no television during meals. Right now, she plays with her tablet a few hours over the weekend and in the car during road trips. I would prefer to have her outside riding her bike or scooter, “reading” her books or playing with her toys instead of staring at a screen.

But I admit the tablet does come in handy when I need to keep her occupied (and quiet). Plus, I see her learning vocabulary, recognizing shapes, letters and colors, creating works of art and figuring things out intuitively. Ultimately, it’s about balance because these screens aren’t going anywhere.

How do you find balance? Tell us in the comments.

Serena SmithSerena Smith is a senior marketing communications specialist at ProMedica. Click here to read more posts from Serena’s monthly series, Working Mommyhood