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Child and Adolescent Counseling Blog for Lisa Klipfel, MFT
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My Child Wants an Ipad for Christmas. Are They Ready?

One of the most asked questions by parents this holiday season is, "My child wants an iPad, or Ipod Touch for Christmas. Are they ready?". There are many questions to consider when contemplating giving your child a mobile device, such as an iPad, iPod touch, but could also include a Nook, or or other tablet. These questions relate to content, time, privacy and security.

The first question is about content. Will the iPad, iTouch or other device have appropriate content for my child. Most parents who have these the iPad/iTouch have found numerous age appropriate apps that entertain their child. Some are educational as well. It's important to consider what content DO you want your child to be exposed to and in what manner. What will be the primary function of the device? Waiting in line entertainment? At home entertainment? Educational enhancement? Game alternative? Movie watching? Just as there are many appropriate apps, there are far more inappropriate apps. Yet, as the parent you can control which apps are downloaded. It is advisable that the parent control the "apple ID" which is connected to your credit card. This will allow you to control the content and financial impact of such a device.

Another comment regarding content is that most of these devices, including some nook and most tablets is that they have wifi access to the internet. Is your child of the age that you would allow them on your computer surfing the internet without supervision? If your answer is no, then you need to give the same consideration to the mobile device. This dove tails into security. There are apps that are available that will tell you what sites the device is surfing, as well as downloads and time on apps. Depending on the age of your child, it may give the opportunity to have some breathing room. Remember, it only takes one click on youtube while you've taken a second to head to the bathroom for a 4 year old to see an inappropriate video and start repeating words you've never said in your home.

Along with security is privacy. It's important to teach your children about what they can and can't share when they are online. This starts with setting up profile names and accounts for games, but continues on when they start utilizing social media. Most social media sites don't allow children under 13 to have accounts, but I'm finding kids are entering social media such as instagram or youtube at a younger age because of the photo and video nature of the sites. They don't focus on words as in facebook or twitter that younger children don't feel the need to follow, but there is a draw to the visual sites. It is important that you are aware what your children are interested in and learn together. If a child wants one of these accounts, consider a family account that allows you, the parent the ability to post the photos, which also teaches children by example what photos or videos are appropriate and why. It will be a chance to share with your child, and also see what his/her friends are doing.

Lastly, is the issue of time. I hear so many complaints from parents that their child spends too much time on their electronic devices. Remember that you can set the parameters for this. If it's not set when they are young, it will be even harder when they are a teenager. Large amounts of screen time (TV, video, mobile devices) are correlated with obesity, irregular sleep, behavioral problems, impaired academic performance, and violence. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting screen time to no more than 2 hours per day. Many parents don't allow devices to be used on school days, so that it doesn't impair homework.

With all those cautionary tales, an iPad or iPod touch can be a fun device for children as long as you teach children how to use them to ensure their safety, limit usage so they continue to play with other age appropriate toys, and monitor the content. There are many useful and educational programs, even some fun family games. The key to the success of having the iPad in your home is moderation and knowledge.

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