This morning, I read with interest, a Face Book feed about whether or not to invest in a Leappad for a child.  Most of the debate was around the purchase of a Leappad versus an iPad. But there was one comment that caught my attention and if I’m honest, put my back up and irritated me:

I don’t know if my opinion is because of my OT or child development background or what , but I have strong opinions that kids should be outside climbing trees, getting dirty, doing jigsaw puzzles etc rather than using electronic gadgets like leappad or iPad. Research also shows that kids who spend more time in front of screens (phones,TV or computers) have been shown to have increased rates of ADD and depression. I can’t remember the exact amount, but its something like 2 hours a day. Let your kids use their imagination and play. There’ll be plenty of time when they’re older to use these gadgets

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Those of you who have been reading The Blessed Barrenness for a while will know that I work in the gaming industry, for the largest importer and distributor of games into the South African market. Gaming is my industry and it has been going on almost 8 years now.  I’ve previously written about the advantages of video game playing for children, and the same logic would apply to the use of iPad’s and Leappad’s.

Just a few of the advantages include:

  • teaching problem solving skills
  • game dependant – inspiring an interest in history and culture
  • Improved social development & ability to make friends because contrary to the belief that video games are an isolating activity, they enhance social activity giving kids common grounds and interests to talk/share about
  • sporting games can encourage exercise  because players will want to try out the new basketball/skateboard (insert sport name here) on their own
  • they encourage leadership skills & the ability to work together to solve problems
  • they bring parents & children together for time spent playing together

Of course, the key with any of these activities, whether it be video games, Leappad’s or iPads & tablets is that the screen time should be moderated and any half intelligent parent will know this without needing an expert opinion. We all know that leaving our child to sit in front of a TV or other electronic gadget for 8 hours a day is not good for them or their development.

I think what irritated me most about the comment that was made was that it was unrealistic. Of course children should be running outside, getting dirty, riding bikes and climbing tree’s but realistically, that is not possible for every waking hour of every day. Our tablet/Leappad/gadget collection have proven to be our saving grace during long car journey’s, on flights, on cold rainy days or even simply when I need half an hour to throw supper together and I don’t want to leave my 2 and a half year old running unsupervised by herself outside – that, in my mind would be irresponsible parenting.

Ava does not have unlimited access to her Leappad or my tablet. There is a time and a place for it’s use and when it’s not appropriate, those items are packed away and easily forgotten by her because ultimately she is just a child and would always prefer to be running outside, climbing the jungle gym or jumping on her trampoline.

The fact remains, regardless of one’s opinions on all these gadgets, that we live in a digital era and by banning these items completely from a child’s life are we not setting them back in their expected development? There are school’s which now require that Grade 1 pupils have their own iPad’s for goodness sakes. So by preventing your child from having limited access any technology related activity, ultimately,  are you not putting them at a disadvantage when they start school?

I have seen first hand with Ava’s development, how her access to technology has improved both her gross motor skill development and her intellectual development. She can operate a touch screen better than most adults, can recognize familiar buttons with ease and knows how to find the app’s and games she wants to play by herself.  Her problem solving skills and logic are excellent and she is able to build puzzles designed for much older children, all of this comes from regular but limited access to technology based gadgets like her Leappad and our tablets, her favourite app’s include puzzle building and numbers with simple arithmetic. She also loves taking photographs of anything and everything and all of this is attributed to the use of her Leappad and our gadgets.

My parenting philosophy has and will remain  everything in moderation and in practice we do the same with her screen time and use of technology.

Image Courtesy Of – leapfrogleappadexplorer.net