How Young Is Too Young to Get My Child a Tablet?

We are living in an age of technology where kids playing outside all the time is slowly being replaced with kids being video game characters that play outside, while they are actually sitting inside on their tablets. And while kids still draw with crayons, they have also learned to draw doodles with their fingers on screens. It may seem inevitable that your child or household will own a tablet, but there are reasons why researchers say to hold off on technology exposure for as long as possible. 
The New York Times proposed that you may want to even ask yourself a different question entirely: “Why do I want to introduce my child to a tablet, and how is my child going to use it?” Here are a few pros and cons to giving your child a tablet to use during their first developmental years.

The Pros of Tablets

1. Tablets can help prepare your child for school by teaching fundamental skills on educational apps.

When it comes to young children and technology use, experts say that content and context is key. In fact, Lisa Guernsey, the director of the teaching, learning and tech program at the nonprofit New America, is one of those experts. 

Guernsey has coined the three C’s: content, context and your child. These are the three of the most important things to consider when considering whether to expose your child to a tablet. Highlighted in the New York Times article “Is It Too Soon to Give My Kid a Tablet?” the early learning expert said this about introducing your child to technology:

“We need to focus on the content on the screen. The context: how we’re interacting with children around that media, and making sure that they have good interactions when they’re not with the media. And then the child, our children: We understand our kids, we know what’s going to delight them, we know what kinds of questions they might ask from it, we need to just tune in to see what they understand from it,” Ms. Guernsey said in her TEDx talk about how screens affect young children.

One thing you will want to note when considering the three C’s is whether your child has a learning or social difference. If your child is dyslexic or is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, they could find substantial value in certain apps and learning tools that are specifically designed to fit their needs. 

If you have considered the three C’s and decide that you do want your child to be using a tablet, educational learning should be the main purpose for screen time use. PBS KIDS Games, Daniel Tiger apps, Highlights apps, Elmo Loves 123’s and EPIC! are among some of the most popular educational apps for children. Whatever you do, make sure to do your research on the best educational apps for your child’s age group to ensure that they are reaping the benefits that you intend their tablet to provide for them.

2. It will keep your child busy while you are busy—but make sure to set time limits.

One of the most enticing reasons parents want their children to use a tablet is because they can get some work or housework done while they know that their children are being occupied and learning. It also makes long car rides more bearable, and what parent doesn’t want that?

One thing to be weary of here is to set time limits for your child’s screen time. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children up to 18 months only use video chatting, such as to see family members who live across the country. As for children under the age of two, they should not be exposed to tablet screen time at all, even while supervised. For toddlers between 18 and 24 months, the AAP recommends quality viewing time, such as educational shows or games with the supervision of parents. For preschoolers aged two to five, they should be limited to one hour of screen time each day. And for children ages six and older, there is no specific screen time limit, however, parents need to remain consistent with their time limits and boundaries around technology.

3. Your child could be tech-savvy from the start.

It isn’t far-fetched to think that by the time your child enters Junior High that they could be doing low-level coding and dreaming up apps they will create someday. If your child is expressing an interest in creating with technology from a young age, it may be a skill that you as their parent want to foster. 

As for two to five year olds, your child might benefit from building the fundamental skills technology requires by the time they enter kindergarten. Pushing buttons, unlocking the screen, navigating apps and following instructions to play games can help develop their fine motor skills as well as encourage critical and analytical thinking to solve problems in their games! As long as your child is developing socially off-screen, staying active and healthy, and can transition from screen time to off-screen play without aggressive behaviors, your child could benefit from learning how to use technology to progress their education.

The Cons of Tablets

1. Early exposure might lead your child to believe that technology use is a right, not a privilege.

One way to avoid this issue is to establish early on that screen time is a reward, not a necessity. Screen time should not only be limited, but it should be earned as well. Has your child been mean to their sibling? No screen time today. Has your child done their daily chores? No screen time until after their responsibilities are completed. Of course, as a parent this approach is entirely up to you, but it is a smart way to go about making sure your child doesn’t see technology use as a right, but as a privilege.

2. Are you prepared to set screen time limits and closely supervise their screen time content?

It can be hard to keep track of your child’s screen time, especially if you and your partner, and even a third caregiver such as a nanny, all watch your child in one day. It’s important to make sure that you yourself are fully prepared to set very firm boundaries around screen time, and that every caregiver involved is willing to be on the exact same page. 

One easy way to monitor their screen time is to set limits on individual apps in the settings of their tablet. this will make sure that when there set time is up they will be notified and you can make sure that they are finished playing. a main concern here is that children will spend too much time on their tablets instead of exercising.  an easy way to eradicate this concern is to choose apps and videos that require physical engagement such as fun YouTube workout videos for kids.  there are also age-appropriate YouTube videos in which kids can pretend to run from dinosaurs or swim from sharks that are silly and engaging!

Overall, the more time your child spends on their tablet with you, the better. Creating fun memories using a tablet between you and your child is great, but just be cautious of that time rolling over into the time that you and your child spend making happy memories off-screen, too.

3. 2-Dimensional learning is not the same as 3-Dimensional learning.

Psychologists have published research that shows the interactions children under the age of 18 months have with other people over screens (2-D) do not help them to develop socially in the same way that face-to-face (3-D) interactions do. Research shows that this can be largely due to the lack of physical activity playing on a screen requires, resulting in children not developing strong social skills. When children are physically active, they learn to build things together, how to communicate and share the ball when playing catch, practice empathy when someone gets hurt, and best of all, how to meet and make new friends through play.

Final Thoughts on Tablet Time

Some parents find that having a tablet adds to their child’s life through high-quality educational learning, finding apps that help with your child’s unique abilities, keeping children occupied and safe while they are busy, and teaching their child new skills akin to their peers. Other parents might experience that the more time their child spends on their tablet, the more aggressive they get when their time limit is up, that their child feels that screen time is a right, not a privilege and they may become addicted to their screen. 

It all comes down to the same question: Why do you want to introduce your child to a tablet and how are they going to use it? If you do choose for your toddler to use a tablet, make sure to set firm boundaries around appropriate use and time limits. If you don’t choose for your little one to be allowed to play with a tablet, more power to you. Either way, you choose, if you make sure that your child is making positive memories at playtime and has access to high-quality learning tools, you really can’t lose!

“This post may contain affiliate links and I may earn a small commission when you click on the links at no additional cost to you.
As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.”

Here are some Educational Tablets for Kids