Tablets vs. TV: Which Screen Time Is Better For Your Kids?

If your kid asked if he could watch TV or play on the iPad for an hour, which would you let him do? Naturally, it depends on what your child is doing on the iPad, but does your instinct prompt you to answer any particular way? That question gets asked of me all the time by my son and my first thought is always the TV.

Yes, I know there are tons of amazing educational apps out there. I’m not against iPad usage for kids by any means, but with my own, I tend to take a slightly different stance. It has really only been in the past year that the iPad has become such a treasured pastime for my son, thanks to his discovery of the FIFA Soccer and Madden Football apps. If left to his own devices, he would likely tap and swipe for four hours straight without breaking to eat, use the bathroom or straighten the inevitable c-curve his back would form into.

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While there’s no time to play on the iPad during the week, we started getting lax with monitoring his usage on weekends, sometimes coming downstairs to find him sitting in the exact same place (and exact same position), without us realizing how much time had elapsed. Whenever I would mention how entrenched he’d be in his iPad, he’d respond with something like, “I watch movies and those are two hours. At least with the iPad, I’m doing something and not just sitting there.” Valid point.

So why raise the hackles about iPad usage? It’s true, I’m fine hunkering down with the kids on a rainy Sunday and watching one, maybe even two, movies with them. The iPad is much more interactive than TV is, more engaging and depending on what app the child is using, encourages them to think and act. Last year, when I had the pleasure of interviewing famed celebrity pediatrician Harvey Karp of The Happiest Baby on the Block franchise, I was struck by his advice that if kids are going to enjoy media, he would prefer they do so interactively (with an iPad screen) as opposed to passively (with a TV screen).

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