Is there a suitable age for children to have their first tablet?

Surely on more than one occasion you have read a tweet or image on Facebook with a phrase similar to this: “Children who do not yet say dad and who already dominate the tablet better than you”. And sure if you are a father you have nodded and even smiled because it is so, many babies, many children, dominate the tablet from very small, elements that are becoming increasingly common in our homes and increasingly common as a birthday gift or In Christmas.

No wonder, thanks to the low prices of the new tablets you can have a new and one step so that your child can discover the technology, and in passing, that can be quiet, calm and stimulated (or so they say).

Now, do we have to smile with that phrase and accept that it is so, that it is inevitable, that children coexist with technology and that they can not be left behind or we should do self-criticism and affirm that young children should not be able to play with a tablet ? We will try to answer this question so, in passing, answer the one that gives the title to the entry: Is there a suitable age for children to have their first tablet?

“It is inevitable, children were born in the technological era”

This is what many of us always think, which is inevitable. When we were born and grew the most there was television and some computers with which you could throw a few games, but in this case we were already an age. Later on, the first consoles appeared, so we can not say that we were born with all this, but only with television. At that time there was one in the house, one for everyone, and that was an obvious limitation because if there were several interested in seeing it, the children were just one more. But here everything does not end. Even if we had a television just for us, which was not the case, the programming was not exactly childish, and there was only one strip in which they issued drawings or programs for children, so the offer was scant enough in general that we had to look for fun on the other hand.

You could say that we were in the reverse of the current situation: many screens, many can be used individually and the offer seems inexhaustible, which now sees the drawings in streaming , thanks to programs such as Clan, RBPlay or YouTube itself .

It is unavoidable? No. Actually it is not. Simply do not buy a tablet and so the child will not use it. And someone can not need something he does not know. And when do you know it? Well, that’s where the doubts begin. Do we deny it, buy it and control the time or buy it and use it whenever you want? When giving three options it seems that the best one is the intermediate one, but it does not have to be like that if the fact of denying it is accompanied by an important implication of the parents in the time of the children. It’s a bit like TV. Not everyone has a television, so if you ask parents what children do to kill time, without TV, they usually respond: play. Play among them, with them, make excursions, develop hobbies, read, seek adventures, develop the imagination, etc. TV is a technological invention seconds ago if we compare it with the history of humanity, so the tablet, I will not tell you (how would children have fun without screens? How will they do it where they do not?).

In this regard, psychopedagogist Alma García tells us the following:

The kids are not like us. They have already been born in this world and denying it is unrealistic, but they are still elements that encourage mental excitement and cause them to be distracted from other games where “they are not given everything done”, such as table games or construction, where they enter other elements in play, such as using motor and sight more openly (focusing from near, far, to half plane …) which does not happen with a tablet and is essential for their future as students.

When is a good time to buy a tablet?

The reality is that there is no perfect time to open the doors of the world of screens, but rather the opposite: there is a moment before which it is better not to do so , and we can think that it is two years . We say two years because it is the age that the AAP (American Association of Pediatrics) marks as the limit below which children should not have access to screens:

Television and other (digital) entertainment media should be avoided in infants and children under two years of age. The child’s brain develops rapidly during these early years, and children learn better from interactions with people, not screens.

This is what the psychologist Alberto Soler explains to us , who a few days ago also spoke about the subject in his blog :

The longer we postpone the exposure the better, but it is considered that there is a red line at two years of age. Until that moment you have to avoid it absolutely. Once we pass that threshold it is not that the ban is opened, but we must control that the total exposure combined to all screens (tablets, computers, television, mobile, etc.) does not exceed two hours a day.

Two years! At that age most have already played with them! , you will think. And the data seems to tell us that it is, because a study shows that at 2 years 74% of children already watch TV (and still seems little). But if many children of two years already use the tablet as professionals! , you will think too. And that’s the way it is … they have so much learning capacity that anything you put in front of them will learn it faster than we do. But maybe that is why we should be especially careful, because maybe they are like sponges, maybe they learn so fast, for something else: children have a great capacity to learn to live, to soak up their environment and adapt as soon as possible, because that It will make you more likely to survive in the world.I do not know if the best thing is to “squander” those capabilities with a tablet in your hands . And no, I am not referring to that we take advantage of learning so much to point them to English or that we put them tokens of learning or we put before them a book of economic sciences and go swelling their curriculum, but simply allow them to learn from the world in which they live , which is precisely what happens while many focus their attention on a screen .

Alma García, in fact, is less permissive with age and recommends that we wait even longer:

Actually there is no hurry. The excuse that “they have to use it because everyone uses it and it will be important in the future” is not valid because although they do not use them until they are 15 years old, in two days they will know how to handle it perfectly. Many parents believe that they are doing something positive, that they are stimulating them, that they are “paying attention” to them by leaving a tablet in their hands when in reality it is not like that, they are taking time away from interacting with them. I would not give them a tablet at least until primary school started. In fact, I would not leave even the mobile phone.

And one reads what she says and begins to remember Steve Jobs, who did not let his children use the iPad .

But … what if the content is of quality?

Because of course, you can put your child on the tablet four games and YouTube and the child is opening videos, which worse, or put videos and applications relatively educational , allowing you to learn colors, numbers, languages, situations … very fun games in which children have to play doctor, saving animals from their health problems, or games in which they eat, put the washing machine, go buy food, etc.

So let’s apply common sense: is it the same to give the child educational, stimulating television programs that help him learn that the teen series of the Disney Channel? Well, in the same way, the content is determinant . As Alberto Soler says:

It has been proven that if the contents to which they are exposed are well designed and are appropriate to the child’s age, the negative effects disappear and, even, certain benefits are observed in areas such as prosocial skills, academic performance or visuospatial skills. But if the content is not adequate, the effect is clearly negative.

Despite this, there is controversy as to whether the positive effects they can have are greater than those that we could obtain in other ways (traditional materials such as books, crafts, etc.) with less associated risks.

Or what is the same, although many games provide benefits to children and can help them in many things, when comparing them with real life the tablet could lose out. Do we like the game in which you eat? And why do not we cook with him? Because there are cutlery and kitchen utensils for children and if you sit down with them they will surely enjoy touching the food, cutting it, putting it in the pot and seeing how it changes color and flavor, how it is combined with other ingredients and how it knows the final result. Do we like the game in which he cures others? We can play doctors with him, or he can play with other children. Do we like him to play the washing machine, to take out his clothes, to double it? Well, put it in the house, help us put the socks together, select the color and white clothes, etc. Do we like the one where you go to the greengrocer to buy? Well, put a plastic glove on it, even if it’s huge, and pick fruits and vegetables … so you’ll see that there is a whole hand to grab one and that It is not enough to touch it with the tip of your finger , as it happens on your screen.

The problem is not so much what they offer, but what they stop offering

If the content is of quality, as we say, its use can be valid as long as we speak of an age greater than two years. But the use, likewise, has to be limited in time. I put limits on these things has always been very scary, because it is quite usual that we want more that limit us or not allow us to do, but is that if it is not done there is a risk that the use is totally excessive and children miss everything that a tablet does not offer. For this, it is enough that the limit is clear and that it is not associated with other things. If you decide that half an hour a day is half an hour whatever happens (well, there is always some flexibility, what I mean is not to negotiate with time as a reward or punishment). If one hour is decided, then one hour. If you decide two hours, then two (two hours would be the daily maximum between tablet, television, computer, mobile and all “living” screen).

As Alma Garcia says:

The ideal is to guide its use to specific times and situations and explain that you do the same with it (the tablet). Also, do not link it to other day-to-day events (“if you do your homework I’ll leave you the tablet”) or use it as a reward (“if you finish your meal you can play the tablet half an hour more”), because then we turn it into a privilege. You have to talk about it as someone who talks about the snack, the TV, the weekend walk or the bicycle. One more thing with its time limited.

Because at the end of the day, when a child says “I’m going to the playground to play” every mother of now and before says “okay, for a while, you have to do homework” or “wait, first do your homework and then You go … and come at eight you have to take a shower. ” Even free play has temporary limits, as does the yard time at school, when teachers warn you have to go back to class.

As for what it does not offer , a tablet is so greedy, it’s so colored, so funny, so stimulating and it catches kids in such a way that it’s very easy for them to spend too much time with her. And then we talk about deficiencies. Give a pot, a baby pot to a child, from time to time, if the quality of the ingredients is good, it will not affect your health too much. Feeding mostly from jars is no longer advisable . Well with this happens the same: for a while, okay. For a long time, it is not worth much, because many other things are lost.

Alberto Soler tells us this:

The time spent with a tablet or other digital media is time that is subtracted from other activities: direct relationship with peers, exercise, free play and empowerment of the imagination, contact with nature, etc., which have proven to have a clear effect positive in the development of the child. Among all these effects, limiting the time of interaction with the parents and the verbal exchange with them is the one that has worse long-term effects, which may lead to delays in the development of the language.

Delays in language?

So is. As we read in this study , children under 12 months who watch television for more than 2 hours a day are 6 times more likely to develop language problems .

At a time in history where emotional intelligence and the ability to be a good communicator, empathic and assertive, seem more important than intelligence as we have always known it (the “what smart kid”), it seems evident that what we have to continue fostering are relationships with other children, with us, free play, reading, symbolic play and discovering what is happening in the world, in their environment, on a daily basis. The tablet? Another toy, a moment of fun, a resource . Or that should be.

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