Social Question

jca's avatar

Do you think very young children should play with smart phones, tablets and video games? If so, what is the youngest age for this?

Asked by jca (29291 points ) April 12th, 2012

Recently, a user asked for recommendations for iPod games for a two year old. There were only a few responses, some positive, some negative. Some people defended having a two year old playing with electronics, some people said there are better ways for a two year old to learn and play.

What do you think? Do you think a very young child (and how young?) should be playing with iPhones, iPods, Kindles, video games and other electronics? Or do you think young children should be engaging in more traditional play only? If you think children should be allowed to play with electronic games, what is the youngest age they should start?

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12 Answers

Bellatrix's avatar

I went to a conference earlier this year about education and new technology. One of the presenters showed a video of a very young child playing with a phone. Looking at photos and I think the child picked some music to play. It used the phone naturally.

The point was, these are the students of the future and they will be using this technology and the technology that follows it to learn, communicate, work and many other things. Our kids don’t communicate in the way we did when we were children. They often do use phones and tablets. In our schools, young people (not little kids) are expected to have laptops to work on. I see letting them learn how to use this technology as being akin to us learning to use crayons and pencils. They are tools we will use throughout life. Young people expect learning to be interactive.

I am not suggesting they shouldn’t also play with balls and bricks, jigsaws and traditional toys but I don’t think it is a bad thing that they become used to the technology that will be a major part of their lives. As to what age, when they are interested. I was looking for that link but there was another link with a child playing with its mothers smart phone and swiping to make it do things. They are learning hand-eye coordination. I am not suggesting give your 1 year old a phone and leave them with it. I don’t see any harm in them being part of the child’s learning through play though.

New technologies bring with them a whole range of challenges for us to navigate. We will have to learn how to deal better with cyberbullying and the like. I am sure we will manage this. It will take time though and technological change moves quickly.

Judi's avatar

My 6 month old grand daughter plays with a rattle game on my iPhone. It’s amazing how quick they pick it up.
My 3 year old grand daughter is a pro. She is pretty good at angry birds.
When my kids were growing up I didn’t let them have a lot of access to the computer. I worried that they would get into unhealthy places. In retrospect it was a mistake. It put them at a technological disadvantage when they got out into the world.
I think letting your kids be on top of technology is probably a good thing in the long run.

avalmez's avatar

Story is that when the modern GUI was developed (by XEROX smalltalk folks), their intention was to develop an interface so intuitive, that a kindergartner would learn to use it effectively very quickly. Obviously, they achieved their objective. The question really is, though, do you want to risk your pricey smartphone being in the hands of kids? My iPhone is never returned to me by my grandkids exactly as a loaned it to them. But, thanks to the wonderful backup/restore functionality, I’ll loan it to them every time.

RocketGuy's avatar

Gotta be careful about addiction esp if they have signs of Aspergers. We had such a kid go Columbine on us last year. Luckily he was shooting kids in the head with a super soaker water gun.

Bellatrix's avatar

I think that problem connects to an entirely different set of questions though @RocketGuy. I don’t think we should allow our children to use any technology to the point where it becomes an addiction and we should be monitoring what they are doing/playing. That was why I said I was not suggesting giving a child a phone and leaving them to play with it with no supervision. We have to be responsible parents. Just as with any other facet of our children’s lives. I did not let my son play violent video games. Of course, I can’t be sure what he did when he visited his friend’s places.

lillycoyote's avatar

All things in moderation, I think. To say say a young child simply shouldn’t be allow to play games on a smart phone or tablet, just as a matter of course, if they are capable of it, enjoy it and may learn from it seems kind of silly to me. Simply handing them one to the exclusion of other activities is pretty silly too. I think too many people engage in simple either/or thinking. Using and being familiar and competent using technology is a big part of functioning in our world today. As part of balanced and diverse set of play and learning activities for a child, it seems fine to me. And then take it away from them and make them chase bubbles around the backyard and build a fort and read a book to them and let them play in the mud and get dirty and then let them have the iPad back for a little while

RocketGuy's avatar

@bellatrix – his parents were doing the opposite…

Fly's avatar

I don’t think that the electronics themselves are the issue, more so what they are use for. In moderation, there are many apps, video games, etc. that can be educational and/or beneficial for children of about two years of age and older. As long as you can accept the possibility that such a young child could easily ruin a piece of expensive technology even under supervision, I personally think that the use of this technology by young children (as long as the parents can participate with the child and can supervise) can be a good thing.

My three-year-old nephew, however, can play Angry Birds better than my sixteen-year-old sister, and I do have a serious problem with that.

deblee's avatar

I let my daughter play fun edicational games on the computer. She had a great time and learned to read young and other skills. She got bored eventually so we also threw dull darts at the correct letter to learn her abcs with the neighborchild and did normal stuff like build forts and catch fireflys. I avioded non educational stuff though drawing was fine. There are a few cell phone companies with parental controls including time blocks and allowed or disolowed numbers.

Seek's avatar

I started my son on computer games at a very young age.

My belief is this: It’s not my job as a parent to raise a porcelain-perfect 1950’s sitcom child. It’s my job to raise an effective adult. Thus, I want my kid to know everything I can teach him by the time I no longer have the opportunity to do so.

We live in an electronic age. When the drop spindle was invented, women taught their daughters from the time they could sit still to swirl that spindle to make thread. When the spinning wheel came along, do you think they said “Well, she’s just a baby, so we’ll teach her the drop spindle because that fast wheel would be too stimulating and spoil her?” Fuck no. She used the tools of her day to teach her kid how to use the tools of her day.

My son was born in 2008, not 1890. Why should I use a slate pencil to teach him letters and numbers when there are animated Flash games available that we can play together? We also do flash cards, refrigerator magnets, and write all over the world with sidewalk chalk.

And in case results matter to anyone more than the methods, my 3½ year old does simple math and can string letter sounds together to make words. We’ll be starting our first reading of The Hobbit on his fourth birthday, just like my daddy did with me. (the daddy that also taught me computer chess, DOS, and how to skip school to beat the main boss on Kirby’s Adventure.)

jca's avatar

My daughter is almost 5 and I haven’t bought her any video games or tablets yet. I feel like there’ll be enough of that when she starts envying her friends who have it (hopefully not for a few years yet) and then getting them as gifts.

I was watching a documentary last night where this woman who wrote a book on the marketing industry selling to children was saying children spend too much time looking at screens (TV, DVD, video games). In the question someone else posted on another thread about their 2 year old playing with the iPod, I feel like at 2 a child should be exploring and playing with blocks, trucks, building, climbing, doing those things. I feel like 2 is a bit young for video games (the parent did explain that she wanted something to keep the toddler busy while waiting for a table in a restaurant, which is different, IMHO, than wanting the toddler to play it every day).

keobooks's avatar

I think one problem with technology for any age – but especially little kids – is that sometimes people use it to replace interactions with each other. I think if you use it with a variety of toys and play WITH your baby or toddler, rather than just plunking them down for an hour or two and let the device mesmerize them, it’s fine.

I see it like McDonalds. Yes, it’s unhealthy junk food. She could be both overweight and undernourished at the same time if that’s all I fed her. It’s very addictive and a bad habit to get into. But our McDonalds also has a playground and it’s nice to go there, eat some fries and and ice cream and watch her go nuts on the equipment. Its also cheap and fast and after a long run of making food at home and having my picky toddler tear off little pieces and throw it on the floor, it’s a great change of pace to go in and grab a burger.

So long as you don’t make electronic toys the main meal – or the ONLY meal, I think they will be fine in the long run. And because of the nature of the electronics, I do think it’s important to do what you can to have an active role in playing with the toy, rather than teaching the kid to be passive and have the toy play for him or her.

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