I believe that tablets are a wonderful invention and a source of education, fun and entertainment for people of all ages.
Some people complain that their easy accessibility is increasing the amount of time people spend in front a screen and I can see their point. Kids, especially, find them fascinating, and although two of our children seem to be able to self regulate their screen time easily, we have at least one who would spend her whole time on the sofa with a screen of one type of another if she was not forced to do something else now and again. Tablet time does need to be carefully managed if you don’t want the responsibility of a full blown screen-addict on your conscience.
We have a number of different tablets in this house; supposedly some belong to a specific individual and some are community property, but the reality is that everyone gets a go on everything if they wait their turn and then ask nicely enough.
DS has a LeapPad 2 that the younger two girls are always borrowing. DH has the latest iPad (whatever version they are up to now) and sometimes lets the kids play on it. I have a Nexus 10 that the kids only get to use if they are being very, very good. And we have a couple of older iPads, a 1 and a 2, that are up for use by anyone. So number wise there are enough tablets for each child to have one tablet each, but this is not what usually happens.
The problem is that there is usually one tablet that everyone wants to use, as they all have slightly different games and apps on them, and the kids have had to learn to co operate so that everyone has a go. Well, that’s what would happen in an ideal world. Our house doesn’t work exactly like that.
So instead the kids have learned to argue, complain, cajole, threaten and bribe each other so that everyone eventually gets a turn. Most times this involves someone coming running to me and whinging that they haven’t had a turn on one particular iPad yet, and so-and-so has had if for the last four hours, and it’s really not fair… At which point I give the complainant my Nexus as a distraction and the iPad hogger a 5 minute warning.
Then everyone switches focus to the Nexus and demands a go on that instead.
Tablets have also taught my children how to set a timer and keep a beady eye on the countdown to make sure that NO ONE gets a second more on their desired tablet than allowed.
Playing on tablets has proved very educational. Our kids have used them to practice reading, times tables and music theory. Popular games such as Angry Birds and Jellycars may appear to be mindless fun, but also teach about the laws of physics and thanks to gravity, our kids now know exactly what happens when you drop an iPad on a slate floor.
The kids have learnt to spell the names of many countries they have travelled to with 4 Pics 1 Word and DS explained the game of golf to me the other day having played it many times on my Nexus. They have also learned the value of money and gained an understanding of the rudiments of genetics thanks to Dragonvale.
Our children also know that hitting each other with the sharp end of a tablet leaves a far bigger bruise on their annoying sibling than using the flat side, and makes it more likely that an angry parent will believe the injured party’s story.
Tablets have also been educational for DH and I. We have learned to always make sure the WiFi is turned off unless we are closely supervising our offspring, and that 4 giggling children sitting around one tablet means that they are watching inappropriate videos on YouTube again. Tablets have also proved to be an effective incentive of good behaviour in our kids and the loss of tablet time for a short period of time appears to be one of the worst things you can do to a child these days.
Despite the drawbacks, I think tablet computers have something positive to offer to most families. Our children have certainly learnt a lot from them and DH and I have found them useful as well.