3 experts and 3 parents have answered
Ms. Naik's response above makes some great points. Underlying many of them is a simple point that is often glossed over in new-media discussions and that I think is worth focusing on.
Compare the question above to the following question:
Are books better for learning than movies?
Our knee-jerk response might be, "Yes, of course!" or perhaps, "Actually, no." But really the question is overly broad. Consider: Would you rather have a child read 50 Shades of Grey or watch Lincoln? How about reading Mother Night (by Kurt Vonnegut) or watching Inglourious Basterds [sic] (by Quentin Tarantino)?
Similarly, there are programs on TV that would compare favorably with tablet apps, and vice versa. As Ms. Naik writes, "interactive doesn't always mean educational"--even some earnest efforts at educational content are utter failures.
One key consideration is whether the is child engaging with the content or simply letting it "wash over" him/her. In my house, for instance, we'd never have the TV on while my children played with toys; they'd need to choose to focus on one or the other.
Another important question to ask is what ways of thinking does the particular interaction promote? If a TV show helps my children think like scientists, great; if an iPad app prompts my children to respond unthinkingly by bashing whatever "enemies" wander into range, I'd steer them away from that activity.
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Absolutely! We don't have a TV in our family rooms (just one in our bedroom) so the kids watch virtually no TV (it comes out at Christmas for a couple of days as a treat). It's sad to watch a kid in front of a TV, just sitting there, fixated on it like an idol. An iPad on the other hand is a much better entertainment device, the interaction is educational, teaches fine motor skills and is engaging! We still encourage actual play, reading actual books and even going outside! However we don't restrict the iPads much as they seem to do no real harm.
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Yes, anyone with kids and an iPad can say -yes, iPads are better baby sitters than TVs - simply because they have touch screens and engage kids in haptic (touch) play.
Now, the question of content is next. But regardless, if the the point is about interactivity and device preference, tablets are the winner.
A new phenomenon has emerged -- the pass - back effect - where parents hand smartphones, like the iPhone, to their young kids. There is a great report from the Joan Ganz Cooney Center (The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop is an independent, non-profit research group that is fostering innovation in children's learning through digital media).
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Yes, it’s not ideal. But sometimes life gets in the way and gone are the days of using television to keep kids occupied! These days, if you need to get something done urgently it’s likely to be the iPad that you turn to for, we say with tongues firmly in cheek, babysitting services. However, the question of which is better has many divided.
Currently 77% of parents think tablets are beneficial to kids – feeling that a child being interactive with educational games beats a child being inactive in front of the TV. Though the reality is many pre-school children don’t watch TV in an inactive way and tend to play as they watch, thereby giving the gogglebox the heads up.
Then again according to Schools.com, tablets make good nannies because ‘With supervision and some pointing in the right direction, kids can benefit from the new tablet technology’.
It’s a tricky debate made more complicated by the fact that, firstly, interactive doesn’t always mean educational and secondly, there are many experts like psychologist Dr Aric Sigman who say no to all screen time for under threes, claiming inactivity associated with computer watching is connected with developmental issues.
Personally I’m with Lisa Guernsey, director of the early Education Initiative at the New American Foundation, who says that critics blaming devices for developmental problems need to differentiate ‘between cause and association’.
Plus, like all parenting issues, I think the answer about which is better comes down to your individual child and questions of balance. The reality is this: technology is part of our children’s lives and giving them a tablet to use for an hour, or a TV show to view isn’t going to squash their brains.
Of course this is very much dependent on your child, which brings the answer down to screen time. It’s not so much about which is the ‘better’ babysitter, but really how long let your kids use tablets and TV for!
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Yes, but sooo addictive. We have 4 boys addicted to angry birds on the iPad!
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I think it depends on the age...with my 2 & 4yo's for example if I give them the tablet they are losing the app, clicking on ads, or resetting my husband's phone (WinMo) and it is hardly enough distraction to get anything written on here or do dishes...I'd much rather put on Caillou or Super Why if I need a little break during the day...
With my 7yo though she is really good about staying busy on that stuff, she loves the time telling app I have on my tablet, checking her KidEmail on my Chromebook, Pocket Frogs, and lots of other stuff...so for her I DO like the tablet/computer better since she is interacting and so learning as I see it.