Thursday, January 5, 2012

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 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?

Cost IS a Factor

At the beginning of this article I asked that we set aside the issue of cost for the moment, but cost is definitely a factor. An iPad is not an option for everyone. Even if your child's school provides an iPad, most do not allow the child to take them home and not all of them use the iPad all day, only in certain classes. So when deciding to buy an iPad for your child to use, ask yourself these questions first:

  • Am I buying an iPad for myself, and letting my child use it on occasion, or will it be primarily for the child(ren)?

  • What would I pay for a full computer for my tween/teen to use?

  • Are there enough apps relevant to my child (disability, interests, study needs, etc.)

  • Does my child's school have an iPad program in place, or is one planned?

Naturally, only you can decide if the price is worth paying. I always recommend checking Apple's online store for refurbished deals, which can lower your cost anywhere from $70 - $100 off the original price. Check the refurbished section often, as models available and prices vary constantly. After a new version of the iPad is released, cost of the previous model will most likely drop further.

Remember that the iPad is a platform, one that is growing each day - the number of relevant and useful apps increased between the writing of this article and your reading it. Unlike other products over the years, there is a flexibility to grow with your child by offering new apps that do things completely differently than other ways of learning - perhaps exactly the way your child needs.

In addition to years of teaching people how to get the most out of their Mac, including coordinating all educational opportunities at Apple's flagship store in Chicago, Craig J. Burns founded Mac in a Minute! which provides one-on-one training on Apple products and software. With live training available online, Mac in a Minute! can help you wherever you live, and at times convenient to you. Beginners, pros, and everyone in between can get the help they need, when they need it.

Visit us online at and get help with your Mac, iPad, or iPhone.

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