As kids across the country are settling back into school, their parents have no doubt equipped them with binders, protractors and pencil crayons, as they have been for decades. But will an iPad soon be on the list of must-haves for kids in primary school?
PCWorld named the iPad the "Children's Toy of the Year" in 2010. And kids seem to want them. Last November, a Nielsen poll showed that 31 per cent of American kids aged 6-12 wanted an iPad for Christmas. And the Sydney Morning Herald recently wrote about a new trend in toilet training – letting the child use an iPad while on the potty to encourage, er, results.
While it might seem ludicrous for a young child to be using such a sophisticated (and expensive) piece of technology, there is evidence that simply exposing children to technology can spur them to learn how to use it themselves. A recent Canadian Business story noted the extraordinary success of the Hole-In-the-Wall experiment, in which computers were mounted outdoors in a disadvantaged area of India. The local children taught themselves how to use the computers without any guidance, even learning English in order to do it.
So will giving your 6, 7 or 8-year-old an iPad make them into a computer whiz? Spoil them rotten? Or just encourage them to play computer games until their eyes cross? Huffington Post Canada Living asked some of Canada's leading parenting experts to share their take.
Should you get an iPad for your child? See what our experts have to say below the poll:
Judy Arnall, parenting expert and author, 'Discipline Without Distress'
"NO! It's an electronic babysitter for the parent. Parents who buy their young children electronic devices are doing it for themselves, not for the intellectual growth of the child.
"Research shows that kids become tech savvy very fast when they need to, such as high school level, and that young children need experiential learning activities instead of learning from a screen. They need to paint with real paint and fingers, rather than a screen application. The more the learning activity touches the five senses -- hearing, sight, touch, taste, and smell -- the more the child remembers.
"Parents could also be buying it for their own sense of self-esteem. 'Look at my six-year-old computer whiz flying around his iPad - isn't he smart!' Meanwhile, the kids have no communication skills. With their heads constantly pointing down at screens, they have no desire nor need for eye contact or interaction with those in the room. They learn very quickly how to disengage from people."
Beverley Cathcart-Ross, parent educator, counselor and founder of The Parenting Network
"There's not a right or wrong here. A family that has more money at their disposal may see this as making their children that much more savvy technologically. Or there could be the over-indulgent parent who's buying it because it's the hottest thing and they want their child to be the first of the block to have one. So what's the intention? What is the need of the child?
"I typically suggest that parents look at the message they are giving their child if they present their children with something like this and if it's not reflecting their values, then don't do it.
"It's really good if [buying an iPad for your child] is pre-planned and not reactionary, that parents sit down and say, 'This is quite a privilege and yes, there are some conditions around the use of this. I want you to know that a certain amount of hours of screen time a day is appropriate to us, sitting down at a dinner table with no interruptions, these are reflecting our family values.' We need to discuss these things before we release them to our children.
Joe Rich, social worker, CityLine guest therapist and author of 'Parenting: The Long Journey'
"When you're parenting, always anticipate your future battles. For as long as you can, purchase every piece of technology as a family piece of technology. It's the family iPad, it's the family phone, the family computer, because each device is going upstairs to the bedroom earlier and earlier. Parents learned this 40 years ago with television. The iPad sits next to the kitchen and the computers in the family room on the desk.
"The black and white question is 'Should we buy it or not buy it?' But in the real world, of course the family should have an iPad and if little Jeffrey takes to it and uses it a lot that's very good. And if little Jeffrey says to his friends, 'I have an iPad,' Mom says 'Jeffrey!' and he says, 'Okay, it's the family's iPad.'