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The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

Screen-swaddled: The pros and cons of the ‘iPad baby’

Yu+Yu+Blue
Yu Yu Blue

Whether you grew up calling it a binky, nu-nu or, if you’re normal, just a pacifier, our parents all had unique ways of distracting us and helping us calm down. 

But children can’t stay distracted forever, and parents have to adapt and learn what activities can hold their children’s attention. The ways in which parenting techniques have evolved have gone unnoticed—until now.

Depending on the person, maybe you grew up playing with LeapFrog gadgets, or maybe your parents were old-school and just gave you some colored pencils and paper. However, nowadays, it seems that there is one device that outshines the rest – the iPad. 

It’s no surprise that parents are using their personal devices as a parenting tool. And really, can you blame them? The iPad offers endless entertainment and lessens the stress on parents to keep their kids occupied constantly. 

Of course, I have no idea what it’s like to be a parent and the struggle they must endure when they want to sit down for a meal at a restaurant for a few hours or just get some work done at home while simultaneously trying to keep their children busy. In that sense, I can see the obvious advantages of using iPads and iPhones to keep children engaged in one activity for hours on end.

However, I am shocked by how this practice appears in the real world, which seems oddly dystopian. 

I work at a restaurant, and while it’s not the type of place most parents would bring their kids, I find that when they do, their children are fully immersed in whatever is on their screen. 

In this case, I use the term “iPad baby” loosely when referring to the ages of these children. While I’ve seen children as young as three-years-old holding an iPhone and scrolling through TikTok, I can say the same for nine-year-olds and 13-year-olds.

What’s upsetting is that sometimes, it’s the parents overusing technology, too. In that case, I have to assume it’s just a sign of the times and accept that this is how the world will be from now on. But it’s hard to ignore when the consequences are so apparent. 

“Both adult-child face to face interactions, and interactive exchanges, whether verbal, gestural, and physical, all are absolutely elemental in building the healthy foundations of social emotional as well as cognitive development in the child,” said author and professor at DePaul’s College of Education, Mojdeh Bayat. 

Smartphones and tablets have the special capability to glue us to the screens, causing us to become unaware of our surroundings, which is especially dangerous when it comes to parents and caregivers redirecting their attention from their children to their screens. 

“Even the smaller facial gestures and adults’ affective and emotional reaction can play important roles in development of emotional recognition, attention, awareness, behavioral inhibition, and learning – including logical thinking and problem-solving.”

My negative outlook on giving children access to tablets and smartphones stems from my own experience using technology at such a young age. I got my first iPod when I was nine years old, and a lot of my late childhood was spent on that iPod. I wish it wasn’t that way, which is why I’m passionate about preventing the new generation from a lifetime spent looking at a screen. But as things look now, it might be unavoidable. 

Technology as a learning tool is inevitable, and more traditional tools are on their way out. For example, the idea of a “paperless classroom” has become more favorable since 2014. So, unlucky for me and my pursuit of trying to pry children away from technology, it really is no use. 

However, it doesn’t have to be so bleak. 

I was obviously very anti-children using iPads until I heard a unique perspective from Gayle Mindes, a professor emerita of early childhood education at DePaul.

“I think that there are people who think that we should turn the clock back and not have any electronics with children … However, technology is a tool of our time. It provides early exposure to language in a way that facilitates cognitive development and some use of the tools of our era.” Mindes said. 

Admittedly, the people Mindes was referring to included myself. I have claimed rules for my future children that I have now taken back because I can truthfully see the benefits of introducing technology into children’s’ lives early on. 

For example, a news report from the National Skills Coalition found that more than 90%of jobs in Illinois require digital skills. 

But as with all things in life, there has to be a balance between “work” and play. 

“Duration of technology use should be limited based on age (e.g. for infants and toddlers no more than an hour a day, for older children- school age, up to two hours. And as children get older, the screen time can increase a bit with parental discretion.” Bayat said. “The types of apps, their purpose and their benefits must be examined carefully before they are installed on the device for children.”

Editor’s Note: A earlier version of this story incorrectly spelled Gayle Mindes, and referred to  Mindes as a “former professor,” rather than professor emerita. This has since been corrected.

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