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Published: Monday, December 10, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

Should you buy your child an iPad?

It's official: The holiday season is upon us. As usual, there's a hot gift. But I don't ever recall witnessing that gift divide so many households.
Is this the year to get the kid an iPad?
A recent Nielsen survey of kids ages 6 to 12 found that "approximately half the children surveyed expressed interest in the full-sized iPad (up from 44 percent last year), and 36 percent in the new iPad Mini."
Whether Santa or his parental minions will deliver an iPad is another matter.
That debate has many variables: a child's age, aptitude with computers and trustworthiness; a parent's disposable income and attitude toward electronic media.
The American Academy of Pediatrics warns that "excessive media use can lead to attention problems, school difficulties, sleep and eating disorders, and obesity. In addition, the Internet and cellphones can provide platforms for illicit and risky behaviors."
The other side of this modern coin is anxiety over lack of screen time. "I'm worried she'll be the only one in her class who doesn't know how to use a computer," a friend of mine recently confided.
She and her husband had endured well without any gadgets, but for their daughter, they are contemplating making the purchase so she won't fall behind her peers.
Their daughter is 3.
Which brings up the age question.
"In a supervised environment, children as young as 4 or 5 are able to engage in learning activities using smartphones and tablets of all kinds. In an unsupervised environment, I wouldn't recommend a smartphone or tablet purchase for a child until at least between the ages of 11 and 13," one expert told PBS.org.
For many families, that guidance is unrealistic.
The point of the tablets, after all, may be that the parents can check out for a few minutes while their child is entertained by an at least marginally educational app.
Story tags » Computers & Information TechnologyParenting

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