For some parents, the iPad has become an expensive babysitter. It happens in your waiting room every day—parents passing off their iPad or phone to their kids in order to pass the time.
Other children are more dedicated users, switching between games, videos, and educational tools with precocious ease.
Since iPad use has become so ingrained in your patients’ lives, it may help to share a few tips to ensure that their use stays fun, safe, and healthy.
Keep it clean:
The iPad is a sleek device, and is not as prone to carrying microbes as many other computing tools. But it’s also a social device, with some families sharing an iPad among many hands. In situations like these, encourage hand washing before use, and discourage eating while using it.
Another word on iPad cleanliness: Staples, the office retailer, conducted a survey in 2011 assessing iPad usage patterns. Of the 200 respondents, 35% reported regularly using their iPad while in the bathroom. Our advice? Don’t do it—let’s keep our iPads out of the toilet.
But if they should get dirty? Apple recommends only bleach-free disinfectant wipes, and only after they’ve been drained of excess moisture.
Watch their use:
There’s a fine line between monitoring and prying, but parents and caregivers must at least be aware of the way their child is using the iPad—whether that means limiting the amount of time per day spent with the device or setting careful boundaries for social networking use.
Apple prides itself on its stringent review of the apps located in the iTunes store, but there are apps—eg, gambling apps and apps with simulated violence—that many caregivers would find inappropriate for children. If those apps do make their way onto the iPad (for adult consumption), there are other app tools that serve as password-protected gatekeepers for both apps and app folders.
Download the right content:
Both games and educational tools for children exist in abundance. Innovative exercise and dietary tools for adults are appearing on the iTunes Store with increasing regularity.
But what about exercise and nutrition tools for kids? There is a growing movement to provide this kind of content, and it is being spearheaded by a few government organizations with which you’re familiar.
The USDA recently closed their “Apps for Healthy Kids” competition, which “challenged software developers, game designers, students, and others to develop fun and engaging software tools and games that drive children to eat better and be more physically active.” You can check out the results of the competition here: http://appsforhealthykids.com.
The Department of Health and Human Services has followed suit with an app competition of their own: Apps Against Abuse. Check it out here: http://appsagainstabuse.challenge.gov.
While there is no guarantee that any of these apps will eventually find their way into the iTunes Store, their existence is proof that developers are still searching for unique and innovative ways to integrate the iPad holistically into the lives of children, where it can be a tool not only for fun and education, but for health as well.