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Timing Matters: When to Introduce a Smartphone as an Educational Toy to a Child

By: Donna Chaffins | Date: November 12, 2012 | Categories: Education, Gadgets, iPhone, Parenting, Technology

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Are your little ones becoming more interested in using your smartphone? If your answer is yes, then you belong to the almost 20% of parents who see their children using cell phones or even smartphones. Latest surveys show that almost 20% of children nowadays carry a mobile device such as a smartphone. What’s more surprising is the age of these children, some just around 5 to 7.

Other statistics reveal even younger children are joining this pack. According to certain experts, the early exposure of children to gadgets is a result of a “pass-back effect”, where the parents pass the device (such as smart phones) to their child and eventually the device becomes the child’s ultimate toy. But there is a compounding question: is it okay to introduce these types of devices to children?

Reviewing Evidences

According to expert opinion and research, screen time or exposure to devices, such as iPhones, tablets, smartphones and the like, should only be introduced if the child is past two years of age. This is because cognitive development from birth until 2 years of age is best achieved through human interactions and real life experiences. Human interactions and real life experiences provide the child the chance to explore and learn using their senses, and according to experts, this is the primary way a child learns.

Organizations dedicated to children’s health and well-being also have a strong hold on the screen time exposure for children. The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommends screen time not start until 2 years of age.

When is the Right Time?

Parents can introduce children to televisions, videos and high tech devices if they reach the age of two or if they are at a preschool age. Even if the child shows interest in the gadget at a younger age, parents should hold back and keep the devices or gadgets away from them. This display of interest does not mean the child is ready to use a laptop or a smartphone, the interest is mostly driven by curiosity and the drive for exploration.

The right time also depends on the level of supervision the child requires. If they go out unsupervised, it would be best to introduce them to such devices at age 11 to 13, but if supervision is there, parents can start introducing the child to a chosen device by age 4 or 5.

Combine Timing with Content

What the child sees on the smartphone is equally essential. Parents must ensure the devices used, incorporate child-friendly and age appropriate applications or software. What the children sees and what he or she plays is particularly significant, so parents must be able to differentiate apps or software that are for “entertainment” and those that are educational.

It is also important to choose an app that is age appropriate. For example, children 4-5 years old have been shown to learn math concepts and vocabulary from watching educational DVDs or TV shows, but if you introduce these to children of younger ages, they might not benefit that much.

Go for those that go beyond entertainment or those that combine both. Memory games, puzzles, spatial activities, nurturing digital pets, sketching, creating music and arts are just some of the categories to choose from. Remember that technology is a solution, if we use it the right way.

This article is written by Amarendra who promotes magic cabin coupon code which offers discount on children’s toys, games and crafts. He blogs at ordersciencebooks.com.

16 Responses to Timing Matters: When to Introduce a Smartphone as an Educational Toy to a Child

  1. Jenn says:

    I have been wondering about this since our 2 year old showed an interest in a coloring app on my niece’s Kindle. Still, I think she should be actually coloring at this point instead of doing it virtually!

  2. I am certainly not in any rush to introduce technology because the world is so overloaded with it.

  3. Maryann says:

    Many children in the autism community use smart devices to help them express themselves and to learn how to communicate.

  4. Colleen says:

    Being such a technology fan I introduced my children to it young. My daughter could get around the computer at 2. She is 7 and she has an iPod (well my old iPhone)

  5. I don’t allow my children to play with my smart phone for the simple fact that they cost too much money to replace and they are too valuable to me. They have other toys that are age appropriate to play with

  6. Lolo says:

    My son uses my iphone to watch PBS Kids while I get ready for work in the morning.

  7. We use this when we get stuck out and about and need added distraction – I don’t feel bad about it though bc my son is a great counter, knows his ABCs, and loves to sing. Those apps encourage it!

  8. Sheri says:

    My youngest started playing with the ipod at about 3, but not that often. They are too expensive to hand over to little kids very often, lol.

  9. Erica Brooks says:

    My children are 5 and 6 and it comes in really handy when we go someplace where we have to wait a long time and I need them to keep quiet. It keeps them occupied. They get to use educational apps like Starfall or Disney Jr.

  10. Chavonne H says:

    I like the thought of kids having a phone for safety reasons but it can be a negative thing with some kids. A smart phone isn’t necessary though.

  11. I do use my ipod to keep my son occupied in certain situations and prevent a tantrum.

  12. Arya says:

    Very educational and i as a parent have always been concerned about my child’s well being and education.

  13. Until my daughter got her iPad, I used to let her mess around with my phone once in awhile.

  14. Andrea Anderson says:

    I think that it’s a great thing for young children to be using technology at an early age, because that’s the type of world they were born into. And technology is only going to keep advancing as they age. I notice some young children nowadays can tell you more about how iPads and smartphones work than some adults. lol. I do feel however that there should be a balance there. Everything shouldn’t be done virtually.

  15. My daughter plays with mine on occasion.

  16. Toni says:

    I love that my kids play games that challenge their minds on my electronics 🙂

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