iPad for Children: Should I Buy an iPad for My Child?

I recently overheard a few parents talking about the iPad. They had seen a young child, about 5 years old, playing with an iPad and apparently the parent had told them the iPad was purchased for the child. One father made no secret of the fact he thought this was insane, and that there was something wrong with any parent that bought a $500 computer for a child. I asked him if he had an iPad, or had used one. He had not. His opinion was based only on the cost of the device, and the idea that it was only a popular trend. Setting aside cost for a moment, and assuming the parent doesn’t own an iPad, is there any valid reason to buy an iPad for a child?

iPad for Younger Ages

Over the past year, however, many studies have appeared that seem to support the idea of an iPad not just being a shiny toy to keep kids busy, but potentially an invaluable tool in child development. A study late in 2010 by PBS found that Apps such as those on the iPad and iPhone can in fact make children smarter. Children are found to be more engaged, more interested in learning when using an educational app on the iPad. More and more, school systems around the country are incorporating iPads not just in high school or middle school, but even in kindergarten. Children with learning or developmental disabilities, such as autism, have been shown to greatly benefit from using an iPad as well.

Children have long been known to learn visually, and the educational toy market over the years has tried many ways to incorporate this into their toys. With an iPad, developers can create an interactive game that young children can be excited about, while learning things as simple as their ABCs to science to foreign languages. Apple provides an impressive list of educational apps in the iTunes Store.

Increased Workload for Teens

For the higher grades, the benefits are more abc kids obvious: why carry around six heavy books, when you can have a few apps on the iPad provide all of that information and much more with video and interactive content. The Chicago Public Schools this year launched a program that will provide more than 20 schools with 32 iPads. With many middle-school grades developing tougher curriculums to raise test scores, students are beginning high school formats at a much younger age. For those in an International Baccalaureate or other advance placement program, the workload is even more challenging. And this is before high school. Once in high school, the workload and the advanced nature of the study seems to lead to one question: how can a student have all the information they need to succeed in school, in a format easy to understand and expand on, in one small light-weight package?