When I was growing up in the 70s and 80s, my parents hired the TV and VCR to babysit my sister and me. We were plunked down in front of Mel Brooks for so many afternoons, the comedy director and actor could take more than partial credit for raising us.
The next generation, my sister’s two boys (aged 15 and 12), have largely been brought up by Microsoft (MSFT) and Activision (ATVI), holed up in the basement playing games from the Modern Warfare franchise on their Xbox 360. And when they left the house, they had a Nintendo DS to keep them supervised.
Now, in 2012, it appears the new nanny is taking the form of more and more sophisticated technology. An infographic published on schools.com shows that parents using gadgets, specifically tablets, to occupy their kids’ attention is growing exponentially. And the kids are getting younger too. Fifty-two percent of kids between the ages of five and eight have experience with tablets and smartphones but a whopping 39% between ages two and four and 10% of infants before reaching their first birthday are swiping away.
We’ve already seen this coming. Remember little baby Bridger who wasn’t even potty trained before figuring out how to master his father’s iPad?
Of the parents surveyed, 22% admit to putting their kids in the hands of their caretaker smartphones and Apple (AAPL) devices like iPods and iPads while they ran errands.
Within the space of one month, between December 2011 and January 2012, the number of American adults that owned a tablet nearly doubled. We can assume the holiday season and the massive demand for products like the iPad 2 and Kindle Fire (AMZN) were to thank for the sudden astronomical increase. And in these tablet-owning homes, the large majority of kids are getting their sticky little fingers all over them.
Seven out of ten children are playing with their parents’ tablets -- “playing” being the operative term. Most of their usage, 77%, falls under the downloaded gaming category. However, educational purposes takes a not-too-distant second at 57%. And if parents can’t learn how to make their children behave, I appreciate the 41% who have at least figured out how to distract their kids with a tablet while dining at restaurants so the rest of us don’t have to watch them scale the booth.
Aside from sparing restaurant patrons, there are clear cut academic upsides to children’s early competency with tablets. Students’ test scores are improving when preparing with apps. In a middle school case study, 78% of students who used the algebra HMH Fuse iPad app scored either proficient or advanced, compared with a 59% success rate from those who studied with traditional textbooks.
More than 600 school districts across the country have already implemented iPad programs into their curriculum. Perhaps that means teaching, as well as parenting, will now come courtesy of Apple.
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