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Toddlers and iPhones: TV or Educational?

Is the iPhone Bad for Toddlers?

I have to say that my iPhone, which is a fairly recent acquisition, is hotly sought after by all my three kids, so much so that I never know what the volume level is set at, or where to find the icons I use as my kids are constantly “organizing” my phone for me.  My youngest was 5 when I got my iPhone and is very adept at using my iPhone.  In fact, he was the first to discover how to delete apps when I discovered that he had removed all the educational math apps that offended his sensibilities.  Had I purchased the phone years ago, I’m sure he’d have played with it at a much younger age.

I do try to limit screen time to 1 hour a day for him and considerably less for his busier older sisters, but it’s an ongoing battle of wills.  I freely admit, though, in a public place like a restaurant I use electronic devices to insure a peaceful meal with quiet and seemingly well-behaved children.  We’re talking iPhone, iPod Touches, DSi’s — our complete arsenal!

The consensus from Pediatricians concerned about screen time (1 hour a day limit!) is that the iPhone, no matter how educational the app, is just like T.V. screen time.  So the question is, do you or don’t you?  What are your screen time rules and how is it working for you?  And how old are your kids?

The full article is here.  Choice paragraphs below.

p.s.  Just to make your head spin, here is a counter argument from education about the educational value of iPhone/iPad apps.  Are we having fun yet?


Toddlers’ Favorite Toy: The iPhone

By HILARY STOUT of the New York Times

Dr. Gwenn Schurgin O’Keeffe, a pediatrician who is a member of the academy’s council of communications and media…

“At the moment, we seem to feel it’s the same as TV.”

  • But just as adults have a hard time putting down their iPhones, so the device is now the Toy of Choice — akin to a treasured stuffed animal — for many 1-, 2- and 3-year-olds. It’s a phenomenon that is attracting the attention and concern of some childhood development specialists.
  • Apple, the iPhone’s designer and manufacturer, has built its success on machines so simple and intuitive that even technologically befuddled adults can figure out how to work them, so it makes sense that sophisticated children would follow.
  • Many iPhone apps on the market are aimed directly at preschoolers, many of them labeled “educational,” such as Toddler Teasers: Shapes, which asks the child to tap a circle or square or triangle; and Pocket Zoo, which streams live video of animals at zoos around the world. There are “flash cards” aimed at teaching children to read and spell, and a “Wheels on the Bus” app that sings the popular song in multiple languages. Then there’s the new iGo Potty app (sponsored by Kimberly-Clark, maker of Huggies training pants), with automated phone calls reminding toddlers that it’s time to “go.”
  • Along with fears about dropping and damage, however, many parents sharing iPhones with their young ones feel nagging guilt. They wonder whether it is indeed an educational tool, or a passive amusement like television. The American Academy of Pediatrics has long advised parents not to let their children watch any TV until they are past their second birthday.
  • …Jane M. Healy, an educational psychologist in Vail, Colo. said: “Any parent who thinks a spelling program is educational for that age is missing the whole idea of how the preschool brain grows. What children need at that age is whole body movement, the manipulation of lots of objects and not some opaque technology. You’re not learning to read by lining up the letters in the word ‘cat.’ You’re learning to read by understanding language, by listening. Here’s the parent busily doing something and the kid is playing with the electronic device. Where is the language? There is none.”
  • As with TV in earlier generations, the world is increasingly divided into those parents who do allow iPhone use and those who don’t.

By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. Sylvia Lima

    I struggled with this question for a long time. Fact is that you can use the iPhone to help kids with a lot more than just lining up a word such as c a t. My little guy uses it for “space” math, drawing, reading (Super Why!) and the all time favorite Highlights Hidden pics. Not to mention the fact that it helps build motor skills. But that’s me. =). And if he gets 1 hours worth a day he’s lucky =D.
    Thanks for sharing.

    • I think the sensible answer is all things in moderation … or at least that is going to be my mantra. And there are great educational apps out there that kids love to play. Thanks for your comment!

  2. Nikki

    I think we should use the same guidelines as TV. I raise my son in a non-English speaking country and do use some English educational DVDs for extra help, but less that 2-3 hours a week.

    I don’t let him near my smartphone because I’m worried about the effects of radiation, bit on his developing body and just overall cumulative exposure.

    I use the http://www.tawkon.com app to avoid exposure myself.

    Just common sense and a little healthy precaution!

  3. Syd

    I can’t agree more, all these worries boil down to questions on moderation. My toddler loves playing this app called Animal Drop, and by matching each animal to its shadow I believe it is a sort of educational tool for her. She also gets to associate the animal to its sound since the sound is played every time she gets the right answer. Would you imagine that apps for kids are the only apps I have on my Iphone? (Of course aside from the personal assistant app called Intuition http://www.iconapps.com which connects me to mommy community). Bottomline is –my mommyhood is complemented with this little technology, and I think it is how I manipulate this gadget that spell the difference between good and bad effects.

    • You have a handle on it! I think limiting the apps on your phone is a great idea but, unfortunately, not the case for me! I need to get rid of of junky apps. Unfortunately, my youngest is very adept at downloading apps! Try to delay that knowledge for your toddler as long as possible. It’s a mysterious box — don’t look behind the curtain!

  4. Best Free Apps HQ

    Some of the more educational apps can be really helpful for youngsters and help them to learn plenty they may not have otherwise. I do agree with the sentiments above though in moderation apps can be really helpful an stimulate a young childs mind but you can over do it like anything i suppose.

    Best Free Apps HQ recently posted…Time to get cracking, Free useful apps!My Profile

    • Hi Best Free Apps HQ,
      There is no doubt in my mind that there are great education apps out there. It’s all about moderation and monitoring screen time. I really need to do this for my youngest who is a boy or he will be on screens all day. And no exaggeration!

  5. Best Free Apps HQ


    I had a change of heart after posting the other week as my 2 YO son is now addicted to the Smurfs movie! argh he cant get enough of it! Your right gotta make sure they dont do it 100% of the time.
    Best Free Apps HQ recently posted…Any budding golfers out there?My Profile

    • Hi Best Free Apps,
      Yes, it’s so important to balance screen time with reading and outdoor time. Boys seem to be on screens more too! At least, that is how it is with my kids.

  6. samsung un60es6003 review

    Hi,.. thanks for nice article.

    I think some educational apps can be really helpful for youngsters and help them to learn new things.
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