One Mom's Solution to Her Kids' iPad Obsession

Tue, 30/04/2013

You might have heard the news last week about the 4-year-old British girl who was labeled an "iPad addict" and received $20,000/month therapy for her "inconsolable" fits when the tablet was taken away. The story has sparked a lot of debate among parents: Was this little girl really addicted to the extent of needing professional help? How did her parents let it get out of hand? How much tablet/tech/screen time is too much? How can we prevent our kids from getting so hooked on technology?

One Cape Cod mother of five recently shared her family's iPad woes -- and her solution -- with Marketplace. The family of seven has just one iPad (I say 'just' because many households I know have two tablets, and I suspect the number is climbing!). Before the mom laid down the law, the five kids argued constantly over whose turn it was, whose time was up, who gets it next... all the usual sibling squabbles over the most-wanted toy -- it just happens to be a $300 toy that's equally desirable to 3-year-olds and 43-year-olds!

The mom's solution? Firm parenting. As with any source of constant sibling battles or toddler tantrums, the answer was to eliminate it. Their family iPad now stays on top of the fridge on weeknights, and everyone takes turns using it on weekends. Sounds pretty smart to me.

I'm guessing the parents sometimes sneak in some iPad time after the kids have gone to bed (after all, I think many parents purchase an iPad with the intention of it being mainly an adult tool, and not a family toy). But it's wise of the parents to limit their own use of the iPad and show the kids that they, too, can get by without it during weekday evenings -- a time when families should be connecting over dinner, doing homework, and sticking with healthy routines.

It's Screen-Free Week. While going 100% screen-free this week might be impossible (especially if you have a desk job), it is smart to keep tabs on your children's (and your own!) screen/tech time and nip tantrums in the bud. These tips can help:

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