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You’ve accident-proofed your new iPad with the best iPad Pro 12.9 case available, and now you feel comfortable handing it to your child when you want a moment's peace. Maybe you’ve even gone and bought them an iPad of their own, safely encased in a brightly colored iPad case. But how long should your kids be using their iPads, anyway? Is it okay to let the toddler explore on his iPad while you get in a productive day of work at home, or can that be too much of a good thing?
The American Association of Pediatricians (AAP) has historically taken a very conservative approach when it comes to children and screen time. They recommended that kids under two had no screen time whatsoever, and older children no more than an hour or two a day.
But screen time today doesn’t mean the same thing that it did ten years ago. iPad use can be a very different prospect from sitting in front of the TV, eyes glazed over and out of touch with reality. Many parents download educational apps on their iPads, or use them to call grandpa and grandma, long lost friends or favorite cousins.
In view of our changing world, the AAP has revised their guidelines. Video chatting, in general, is green lighted for all children. That’s all that is allowed till 18 months of age, but after that, it’s okay if they watch occasional short programs or songs and play games with you. Until two, stay with your child when they are using the iPad.
What about older toddlers and children? For children 2 to 5, the AAP recommends 1 hour a day. Again, supervision is good here, and you’ll need to make sure your iPad is childproofed so your child only has access to what is good and wholesome. For school age children, the AAP recognizes that the iPad may be an important educational tool and simply recommends balance, thoughtfulness, and plenty of time to do non-electronic activities.
It turns out that childproofing your iPad Pro means more than just encasing it in an iPad Pro 12.9 inch case. What’s inside the iPad is even more important: you want to make sure that your child has access just to what is good for him or her, with no accidental forays into inappropriate territory.
Let’s face it: the internet is a mixed bag. As adults, we know how to navigate our online worlds to get exactly where we need to go. But for kids just clicking on any link, it’s easy to end up where you never meant to be.
Happily, the iPad has some extensive controls that can help you set up your iPad as a safe learning environment for your child. The great part about it is that, even if you still use it yourself, turning it back into a full featured grown-up iPad is as simple as sliding a control. When you’re about to hand it off to junior, flick the control back.
Here’s how to set up iPad screen time controls:
Here you’ll see a number of screen time settings. ‘Downtime’ is great for older children who have independent access to their own iPads; in it, you can set a ‘lights out time’ when access to pretty much everything is restricted— from half an hour before bedtime till nine in the morning, for instance, or if you are an ‘after school only’ iPad family, you could set your iPad downtime for bedtime till three in the afternoon.
Under ‘Downtime’ you’ll see ‘App limits’. Again, this is especially helpful for the older crowd. If you’d like your 13 year old to restrict Facebook use to thirty minutes a day, this is where you’d set that.
‘Communication Limits’ determines who can contact your child with FaceTime, iMessage, or iCloud during downtimes or during the day. ‘Always Allowed’ is where you note any apps you want constant access to— sleepytime music, maybe, or a white noise app.
The last item on the Screen Time list is perhaps the heart of childproofing; it’s where you decide what kind of interactions you want your child to have with the world wide web. Do you want juniors making iTunes & App Store purchases? Should they be able to install apps, delete apps, or make in-apps purchases? Tiny children have been known to rack up huge bills for their parents by inadvertently buying out the App Store, so this is important.
Two places down from iTunes and App Store purchases you’ll see ‘Content Restrictions’, and here you choose whether to allow explicit books, music, movies and TV shows. You also can decide what websites can be accessed and whether search results can feature adult content.
Remember, iPad use for kids isn’t something you can condense to a few black and white rules. It’s about making healthy lifestyle choices that allow children to grow and blossom in every aspect of their being.
Kids need time to be bored. They need time for imaginative play, and for running in circles around the dining room table or shooting baskets in the backyard. If iPad use is a small part of the vibrant, many checkered patterns of their days, you’re doing good. If not, maybe you want to do a little screen time detox and then start again with healthy limits— limits that give your child time to focus on a real world that isn’t always as easy to get along with as the screen.