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The blessing and the curse of the iPad

My daughter doesn’t have an iPad at our house, but her dad does, so she gets iPad time there and we borrow it for travel. I really have such mixed feelings about it. 

I can’t deny the good it brings–she is an only child and uses the iPad for lots of socialization especially at this age (7). It gives us a way to communicate while she’s with her dad (she sends me text messages and photos). There are great educational and creative apps for kids to build skills. AND, it gives us parents a few parenting breaks throughout the day.


At the same time, there are definitely the cons: the meltdowns feel worse, the addiction feels real, the feelings of “boredom” that arise when it’s removed and/or difficulty transitioning to another activity. Liv has had her iPad at my house this week because she was home sick one day and I remember her complaining about what she would do in the “4 minutes” she had left on her timer before it was bedtime. Even 4 minutes feels like a lot to sit in stillness when you are so used to being stimulated by an iPad device. The more time she spends on it, the harder it feels to put it away. 


There’s science behind this…

The nature of the iPad screen and the games the kids play on it can trigger the release of dopamine, and this pleasure chemical feels really good. So when the iPad is shut off, so is that dopamine-release, often leading to feelings and behaviors of irritability, moodiness, and frustration. 


Also, in a child’s developing brain, the ability to detect when they’ve reached their threshold (like “okay, my body has had enough screen time for right now”) is not really there yet. This ability requires good self-regulation skills, which we know are premature in little ones (and even in some big ones!)


So should we take away iPads?

I don’t think there is a need to go this extreme if it is already a part of your home. Our kids will not actually grow up in a tech-free world, so it is my personal opinion that the better option is to help them develop healthier habits and relationships with tech (this goes for all screens!). Now, if you are a screen-free home, this also doesn’t mean you need to introduce screens into your home until you feel ready as a family–the next few tips will apply regardless for when you do.

  1. Create good tech boundaries I personally find this to be the hardest boundary to hold, but I try my best. We set specific times allotted for screens. Every child has a different threshold of the amount of screen time they can consume before it becomes too dysregulating–try to observe your child’s own threshold. You can also check out the AAP’s specific screen time guidelines per age. Research shows that ideally screens should be off 30-60 minutes before bed as to not impact sleep.

  2. Regulate content I cannot emphasize the importance of this one enough. It is easier than ever for kids to be exposed to age-inappropriate content nowadays. I made a personal decision in my house to remove youtube AND youtube kids because she would just click on random videos and to be honest, some of the videos even on youtube kids kind of creep me out. I am not saying that you need to get rid of youtube but please monitor what your kids are watching! Parental controls are a godsend. A colleague of mine, Dr. Miriam Dum, taught me about avoiding free game downloads because they are full of unregulated Ads that will bombard your kids. 

  3. Lastly, keep the tech conversations ongoing This is a part of their lives and it’s crucial to build that bridge of communication from now. What begins as “what you can watch, and how much” ends up evolving into social media conversations over time. Show interest in what they are watching and playing, try to understand their world. 

Happy screen time!


As a child therapist and parenting coach,

I’m here to help you see the world through your child’s lens so you can parent to their needs.


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