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Why I’m not getting an iPad for our toddler

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The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that children under 2 should avoid television completely and older kids limit screen time to one or two hours per day. Studies have shown that excessive screen time can lead to attention problems later on. What about the iPad? This is a much more interactive device than a television. Should we let kids play with it? Many parents are exposing their kids to the iPad from a very young age.  Is that a good idea?

We don’t have an iPad and I hadn’t considered getting one for Baby RB40.  That is, until we played with one at the library. We had a lot of fun playing with apps like Toca Robot Lab and reading interactive books. Baby RB40 learned how to turn the pages and enjoyed making the animals move in Barnyard Dance.

The first few times, Baby RB40 was fascinated with the iPad and he didn’t want to leave even after playing with it for over an hour. He likes it because there are many apps to explore and he can interact with the iPad via the touch screen. Previously, the only interaction he had with a computer had been watching videos on YouTube. An iPad is much more fun and I thought, maybe I should get one…

Let’s go over the pros and cons of getting an iPad for Baby RB40

Pros

  • It will keep him quiet and occupied for a while. From what I read, an iPad is like a magic wand that will calm kids down and let you have a little quiet time. This would be very useful if you’re flying across the country or if you want to have a peaceful dinner in a restaurant. Actually, Baby RB40 is very good at restaurants. He’ll eat anything and usually doesn’t cause too much problems. He actually gets a lot of compliments.  Once he’s done eating though, he’ll want to get out of there ASAP.
  • We can use the iPad as a learning tool. There are a ton of educational apps to help a kid learn mathematics and how to spell. They can learn about planets, states, animals, dinosaurs, money and much more.
  • Apps are cheap at only a few dollars each. You can’t even buy a toy Triceratops for that much.
  • Baby RB40 can get a technological head start with an iPad. The future will be full of cool technological devices and the earlier you start, the better off you’ll be.

Cons

  • The iPad is too new and there are has not been any long term research done on it yet. I don’t really want Baby RB40 to be a guinea pig in this experiment. It’s probably fine, but…what happens if the iPad eventually turns your brain to pea soup?
  • Babies and toddlers need to learn about the world through touching and seeing physical things. Sure, he touched a piece of dog poop once, but he learned and hasn’t done it since. I’d rather have him play with physical toys and learn how things work in real life than tapping away at a touch screen.
  • A new iPad cost $499. That’s quite an expensive toy for a kid. Baby RB40 is pretty hard on his toys and I don’t know if an iPad will endure his abuses. The apps might be pretty cheap at a few dollars each, but I’m sure they add up quickly.
  • This is just my personal bias, but I think kids can use their imagination more effectively with physical toys. With an app, you need to follow certain path to accomplish a goal and forward progress is limited by the programmer’s imagination. When kids play with physical toys, you never know what they are going to come up with.
  • If we get one, we would have to come up with a whole set of rules on how and when to use it. Should we limit it to 1 hour per day or just let him go wild on it? It’s easier to just not buy it.

Why I’m not getting an iPad for our toddler The iPad is a great piece to technology, but I think we can wait a few years before getting one for Baby RB40. It’s cool to learn how to use technology at such a young age, but tapping a touch screen isn’t exactly rocket science. He can learn how to use a touch screen later.

For now, I think he can play with the library’s iPad once in a while and that should be enough. At his age, I’m sure it’s better to interact with real people and real objects. Learning to read the old fashioned way is just fine with me. We spend a lot of time reading books and we both enjoy it.

What about you? Do you let your kid play with an iPad? If you do, what are your guidelines if any?  

Baby RB40 recommends H is for Halloween. It’s a great book that taught him to say F is for Frankenstein. 😉

Disclosure: Baby RB40 will get a very small commission toward his college saving if you buy anything from Amazon via the links on this page.

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{ 47 comments… add one }
  • Ernie Zelinski May 13, 2013, 2:23 am

    I think that you have made the right decision.

    This quotation from “Life’s Little Instruction Book” comes to mind:

    “To help your children turn out well, spend twice as much time with them and half as much money.”
    — H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

    • retirebyforty May 13, 2013, 9:53 am

      Great quote. Kids don’t really need that much stuff. They will always find something to play with. They just need a lot of time and love from the parents.
      BTW, I have your book on my reading list – How to retire happy, wild, and free. I’m looking forward to reading it and will probably send you an email to follow up at some point.

  • My Financial Independence Journey May 13, 2013, 2:40 am

    I think $500 for a toy is a bit over the top. It would be different if you were going to be using the iPad most of the time, with the baby only getting the iPad on car trips to keep him occupied and happy.

  • My mother-in-law always lets my 4 year old play with her ipad. There are lots of cool games on it and she LOVES it. I don’t mind her playing with it when we visit, but I would never buy her one. Way too expensive for a toddler! Plus, she will sit and play it for hours if we let her.

    • retirebyforty May 13, 2013, 9:53 am

      Sitting and playing for hours is what I worry about. Kids should be running around most of the time.

  • Romanian May 13, 2013, 4:32 am

    Wifey and I are about to have a baby soon and we thought a lot about this (including PC time and TV time). We ended up agreeing that although you have to let your kid be familiar with technology, you should not start too early because for kids is more difficult to get addicted and in the future get distracted by the iPad and computer. Probably around the age of 3 we’ll start to introduce him to the tech world but only little by little. Giving an iPad (or even a smartphone) to a kid is something we are completely against.

    • retirebyforty May 13, 2013, 9:54 am

      I think 3 is a good age to start with tech. I’m thinking more like 5 though. We’ll see how it goes.

  • Alexa @ travelmiamor May 13, 2013, 5:34 am

    I totally agree with you on not getting baby RB40 an iPad. When people at work talk about getting their 9 yr old one I think they are crazy! They use the educational excuse but I think a purchase like that should be earned. When I was growing up anything that was electronic I had to buy myself with money I had saved. I had to buy my own CD player, Walk Man, CDs, cell phone and minutes for the cell phone, etc. The only thing my parents helped me buy was my 1st 13″ TV and they paid for ½ since I made all A’s for a whole year. Because of this I take really good care of my things because I know the true value of it and it’s my hard earned money!

    • retirebyforty May 13, 2013, 9:55 am

      It’s great that you earn your electronics. I’ll keep that in mind. Getting toys like that should require a little work. 🙂

  • nicoleandmaggie May 13, 2013, 6:37 am

    DH just got one for himself a week or two ago. Both DC1 (age 6) and DC2 (age 9 mo) love it. So far they haven’t managed to break it. Not even DC2.

    Re: worries about too much screen time. I dunno, I don’t see it as any worse than a bouncy seat or a bumbo or anything else that keeps the kid immobilized and out of trouble for 20 min at a time. (Note, though, we do not have bouncy seats or bumbos.) Parents gotta catch a breath from time to time, they just use different things to get one.

    • retirebyforty May 13, 2013, 9:57 am

      Our kid never liked those immobilization devices. He would last like 5 minutes and start making a fuss. 🙂
      You’re right about have a few moments to yourself though. It’s tough to be on the job 24/7 with no break.

  • Mike May 13, 2013, 7:12 am

    If you are interested in tablets for kids, then you can always buy a $70 tablet off of ebay and it works moderately well. However you are probably better off spending more time with the kid and trying books or foreign language tapes or a new game geared towards that age. There is always time later on to teach them about technology.

    • retirebyforty May 13, 2013, 9:58 am

      I’ll take a look, but we’ll probably wait a while. He doesn’t have any electronic toys right now. Maybe when he’s 3, we’ll get him some.

  • Kurt @ Money Counselor May 13, 2013, 8:10 am

    I hope you and baby RB40 have the same haircut. Awesome! 🙂

    • retirebyforty May 13, 2013, 9:59 am

      I was thinking about it, but Mrs. RB40 said it would be trying too hard. 🙂

  • Pretired Nick May 13, 2013, 8:37 am

    Wow, do people really buy iPads for their toddlers? I totally agree with you, keep the tech away from the kids as long as possible. Of course my baby is on my lap as I type this…

    • retirebyforty May 13, 2013, 10:00 am

      The kids love iPads. They are mesmerize by all the cool stuff on screen. 🙂

  • John S @ Frugal Rules May 13, 2013, 8:58 am

    We have an iPad for our business to take to client meetings and such. We allow our five year old to do some educational things on it but limit it in terms of the amount of time she’s on it. While it may be educational, she is still in front of a screen. If we did not need it for our business, then I would be hard pressed to spend that kind of money on something like that for the kids.

    • retirebyforty May 13, 2013, 10:01 am

      I think 5 is a good age to introduce kids to a tablet. We’ll probably get something by then. It should be much cheaper in a few years as well.

  • Mom @ Three is Plenty May 13, 2013, 9:58 am

    Officially, our iPad is for Dad. UnOfficially, it’s the keep quiet on the long car rides toy for Daughter Person (aged 2). We generally don’t let her play with it, but it’s a treat that she gets for sitting quiet in the car on 3+ hour car rides, for sitting quietly in her seat on an airplane, etc. We got an Otterbox for it, and that thing has so far been pretty indestructible. We never let her play it unsupervised though, so an adult is almost always holding it or watching over her. We don’t really keep track of how long she’s using it since it’s a “special” treat for her – she gets to use it about once every two weeks.

  • Bob May 13, 2013, 10:34 am

    I’m on the side of lettings your kids play with real physical things rather than electronics.

  • krantcents May 13, 2013, 10:43 am

    My children are adults, but when grandchildren come along I will read to them. I will give him/her things that will spark imagination vs just giving them something to occupy their time. I would rather take them to the children’s museum to do things vs. seeing something on an iPad.

  • My Life May 13, 2013, 11:19 am

    By NOT getting your child an iPad you are doing them a terrible disservice. Contrary to what YOU think or believe or how much money YOU want to spend, technology is here to stay. YOUR child has to compete globally in this world. Not locally. The tablet technology is bringing exceptional inventuitiveness to the masses and if your child is not introduced to this technology as soon as viable, they will most assuredly fall by the way side.
    Steve Jobs built his first invention at the age of 10. His parents never interfered in his creative thinking, nor did they question price. He grew up to be the greatest inventor of all time! To even imagine a parent would not permit their child to own nor master the technology left to us by Mr. Jobs is unconscionable. Where will our next new inventor come from? China? Korea? Japan? For surely it will not come from Americans who weigh the price of stuff over the creativity waiting to be unleashed inside the brain of a toddler.
    You can buy an iPad mini for under $200. It doesn’t have to be the latest and the greatest. Just enough to get your child ‘thinking’. It was just 12 people who created the software app ‘Instagram’ thus putting over 96,000 Kodak employees out of a job. Where do YOU want YOUR child to be? With the 12 who invented Instagram or on the unemployment line with Kodak ex-employees?

    • retirebyforty May 13, 2013, 11:22 pm

      You can’t be serious. Steve Jobs and the Instagram folks never had an iPad when they were 2, and they turned out just fine.

  • jim May 13, 2013, 11:52 am

    I don’t think a little TV is going to melt anyones mind even a toddler. Thats just my opinion and I don’t have any studies to back it up. Of course I wouldn’t park my baby in front of a TV as a babysitter for hours at a time. But I really don’t think a “little bit” of TV is going to hurt em.
    On the other hand I don’t see why an Ipad is any better than the TV. Playing silly games on an ipad for hours at a time can’t have much better impact on you than watching Sesame Street.
    But I’m probably biased on the topics. I’ve watched a ton of TV and played a ton of video games my whole life.

    I’d be afraid that a toddler would break an ipad. They don’t seem that durable.

    • retirebyforty May 13, 2013, 11:23 pm

      I agree with you about the TV. A little TV or iPad is fine. I just don’t want the kids to spend over an hour glued to something when they are that less than 2.

  • Grayson @ Debt Roundup May 13, 2013, 12:57 pm

    I am on the fence on this one. While my son is no where old enough to use one, I might let him use one on occasion. I would rather have him sit outside and play or build cool lego castles while inside, but if he needs more stimulation, then I might cave in. I don’t really know until I get to that point. Having said that, I have seen iPads do wonders for kids with developmental disabilities. They are little miracle workers for kids that can’t express themselves appropriately.

  • Srini May 13, 2013, 1:48 pm

    My toddler (now 32 months) has been on our iPad for over a year. The experience has been nothing but positive. We started out with Youtube videos. The great kid-friendly thing about youtube is – the recommendation engine.. it recommends related but not same videos.

    He could arrange a train track in an ipad game before he had the dexterity to arrange the Thomas train. He can write his alphabets clearly, spell words before he could do so with crayons. Watching caillou videos is teaching him the imaginative play.. I strongly recommend buying a tablet (not necessarily an ipad) – and put a limit on the usage.

    Remember, in the old times, kids were not allowed books until in later years because they could spoil them…

    • retirebyforty May 13, 2013, 11:26 pm

      That’s great to hear. Thanks for sharing. What kind of time limit do you have on the usage?
      Our kid is 25 months and he likes goofing around on the train track. Sometime he can put the track together and sometime he can’t. I think it’s good for building dexterity.

      • Srini May 15, 2013, 7:56 am

        1-2 hrs. 2-hrs tends to be weekends. I see vast majority of your readers are in favor of avoiding ipad with toddlers/kids. Me and my wife tend to see gaming as a replacement of the TV viewing we did as kids.. not necessarily evil. Moderation being the operative word..

  • Agreed. I’m far from someone who frowns upon the newest technologies, but I recognize how addictive digital items can be.

  • The Dividend Guy May 13, 2013, 4:09 pm

    My two oldest kids can play with the iPad up to 30 min per day maximum. They are 8 and 6. My toddler (15 months), won’t approach it until he is 5!

    Did you know that you can teach algebra to a 7 yr old kid with that? My son is doing simple algebra equations while he hasn’t started the factions yet at school! pretty impressive how playing can make you learn something at the same time!

    • retirebyforty May 13, 2013, 11:27 pm

      I think 5 is the perfect age to introduce a tablet. Thanks for sharing.
      30 min per day is good too.

  • My Multiple Incomes May 13, 2013, 6:32 pm

    Parents nowadays spend money on buying gadgets for kids to keep them occupied, and it is painful to see how at such a young age, children are trained to sit on one corner and tap away, only for us to wonder several years later why our child is not very active and in fact on its way to obesity due to lack of exercise and mobile activities.

  • thepotatohead May 13, 2013, 7:14 pm

    I think it’s the right decision to not get him an Ipad. I personally believe there is something being lost by growing up in an all digital world. To me there is something about paper and ink and that physical touch that can’t be replicated by Kindles and Ipads. I agree with Grayson @ Debt Roundup who said to give kids Lego’s. Those colorful little blocks single-handedly made me love designing and creating things. Such an awesome toy, and something not easily replicated on a screen.

    • retirebyforty May 13, 2013, 11:29 pm

      He’s got a bunch of Duplo blocks for now and I’ll get Lego for him later. It’s fun for adults to play with it too.

  • Greg @ Thriftgenuity.com May 13, 2013, 7:28 pm

    I am not yet a parent, but I say good choice! I plan to read to my kids regularly. Hopefully, that will encourage imagination and development as well as more interaction. Something to be said about the decline of younger folks’ social abilities and I assume it would only get worse the younger kids get into technology.

  • Zimmy May 13, 2013, 10:38 pm

    I have two Autistic children and they were given a couple Pandigital Star Barnes & Noble tablets last Christmas. We tried and tried but neither of them would show the slightest bit of interest in the tablets. They both have access to iPads in their schools and we think the higher quality of the ipads is the reason they have no interest in the Pandigital tablets. I tend to agree with you… just keep the ipad tablets away from the kids and let them discover it later in life.

  • Little House May 14, 2013, 6:55 am

    Good for you! There’s plenty of time to get baby RB40 hooked on technology. I work with middle school students and when I ask them what they do on the weekends, 95% of them say “play video games.” Getting outside and exploring the physical world is so important! It’s becoming a lost art. 🙁

    • retirebyforty May 14, 2013, 3:27 pm

      That’s when kids get addicted to video games. I don’t know how we’ll be able to avoid it… We’ll try our best and sign him up for more physical activities.

  • Your Daily Finance May 14, 2013, 7:05 am

    Can’t see myself buying that for my little one. There are some many things out there for them do to and explore. For the most part I think its the keeping them quiet as to why a lot of parents by time. Go outside and do things technology is only going to improve so baby RB40 isn’t going to miss out.

  • SavvyFinancialLatina May 14, 2013, 12:30 pm

    I think kids need to develop their imagination and curiousness. Introducing them to technology like tv or games on a tablet hinders them from doing so. Now if it’s teaching them how to build something techie, that’s different.
    Remember when we were kids? I rarely watched tv, and instead would read. 🙂 As I started using technology more, and facebook came along, I find it hard to stay away from it for more than an hour.

    • retirebyforty May 14, 2013, 3:31 pm

      I can’t wait to introduce Lego robotics to Baby RB40. Well, I’ll get to play with it too… 🙂

  • moneycone May 14, 2013, 1:28 pm

    We actually have one but I agree with you. If I were to start all over again, I wouldn’t get one. I hardly get to use the iPad!! 🙂

  • Squirrelers May 14, 2013, 7:00 pm

    I got my youngest a “LeapPad” which was maybe $150 but also geared toward kids. It keeps him occupied, helps him with spelling and math (he’s in pre-school), and is somewhat entertaining for him. It’s sort of a happy medium between getting an iPad and going old school.

    • retirebyforty May 16, 2013, 9:08 am

      How old is your youngest? I think I’ll wait until he’s 4 or 5. We’ll see. LeapPad sounds good.

  • mayanqueen May 16, 2013, 3:33 pm

    When my sons were growing up they were allowed to watch just one hour of TV. Then came the video game stage, was very difficult for me to limit the video game time but we manage to extend the use of video games if the homework was done. Still I think that they over used it! If I had little kids now I would limit their use but I would still allow them to be in touch with technology and learn how to use it. Again it all depends on the age of the children. Toddlers or younger absolutely NO. I agree with you, children learn more through sensory experiences such as playdough, paint, toys. I grew up in a third world country and all my toys were hand made. Those were the days! Tops, race cars, yo-yos, marbles, clay, climbing trees, rolling wheels with sticks, swiming in rivers, chasing frogs, getting fireflies in jars! Wow! I love my childhood memories! Maybe we can still bring some of those games back or at least try. Try making playdough at home! So much science involved. I guess everything to the extreme is wrong! The time at the library with the I pad sounds plenty!

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