School season is in full swing right now as parents all over the country hit the stores to cross items off their child’s school supplies list. Although many parents are just buying traditional staples this year, according to a recent PC Magazine survey, others are making bigger back-to-school technology purchases. Parentology spoke with Sean Herman, father, founder and CEO of Kinzoo, about tech making its way onto the school supply list this year.
Tablet Purchases For Younger Kids on the Rise
The survey, which questioned 1,000 parents, found 24 % of parents were planning on purchasing tablets for their preschoolers this year.
“I’m not all that surprised by the numbers presented, especially considering that Common Sense Media reported the number of 0-to-8 year-olds with their own tablet rose from 7% in 2013 to 42% in 2017,” Herman says. “I think tablets are proving to be a great medium for introducing our kids to technology, as long as we as parents monitor their use closely.”
Those numbers are clearly reflected in the PC Magazine survey, which shows 25 % of parents of elementary school-aged children are also purchasing their children a tablet this year.
What Older Kids Are Getting
As kids get older, the number of parents purchasing tablets declines. Instead, parents of middle, high school and college-aged kids say they won’t be shelling out for new tablets this year. Instead, they’re purchasing laptops (at 23, 34 and 40 percent of parents respectively).
Another scenario Herman presents includes hand-me-down tech. When his daughter recently had to upgrade her back-to-school technology, the old device went to a two-year-old sibling. This, Herman believes, may mean PC Magazine’s survey numbers aren’t reflective of parents giving their younger children outdated or older tech as they pass older laptops down the family line.
Tablets for More Than Just Playing
“Tablets can open up an amazing world of learning,” Herman says, explaining his children only use these devices under his supervision. His family takes advantage of reading apps — his older daughter has already read more than 1,000 books. “I’m envious of the world of information she has available to her at such a young age, and love taking opportunities to help her explore safely so she gets the best of technology,” he says.
A Pediatrician’s Perspective
Of course, that doesn’t mean there aren’t downsides to all this accessible technology. PC Magazine also reports 14% of parents surveyed are buying their preschoolers a cell phone this year, with 16 and 21% making the purchase for their elementary and middle school-aged kids, as well.
Those numbers are surprising to pediatrician Dr. Amna Husain, who finds those numbers a bit stunning. “Cell phones were created to communicate with each other at a distance, not for simply texting or games,” she says, explaining at this age they should be used purely for communication in an out-of-the-ordinary circumstance (like a sleepover or after-school event). “Sending phones to school at this age with children increases risk of distractions.”
Not to mention potential health risks. “Increased digital media use is linked to poor sleep,” she says. “Young children with more media exposure or who have a TV, computer or mobile device in their bedroom sleep less than the recommended 10-12 hours and fall asleep later at night.” She adds that even an infant’s sleep quality can be affected by the use of screens. “Poor sleep quality and the likelihood of less movement while being glued to a screen also increases the risk of obesity.”
Tips For Managing New Tech With Your Kids
Husain recommends limiting media use to avoid a delay in learning and social skills and the risk for behavior problems. Her advice: get involved with your child’s technology experience. “Rather than simply setting a screen time limit for your child, enforce a family media plan that’s firm but reasonable. Stay involved in your kids’ media habits with co-viewing rather than simply watching out for red flags, so you’re intimately involved in what their media use pertains to.”