iPhones for toddlers

Mommy’s iPhone is now the favorite toy of many toddlers, reports the New York Times.

Many iPhone apps on the market are aimed directly at preschoolers, many of them labeled “educational,” such as Toddler Teasers: Shapes, which asks the child to tap a circle or square or triangle; and Pocket Zoo, which streams live video of animals at zoos around the world. There are “flash cards” aimed at teaching children to read and spell, and a “Wheels on the Bus” app that sings the popular song in multiple languages. Then there’s the new iGo Potty app (sponsored by Kimberly-Clark, maker of Huggies training pants), with automated phone calls reminding toddlers that it’s time to “go.”

Child development specialists disapprove.

Preschoolers need to move and manipulate objects, not touch a screen, said Jane M. Healy, an educational psychologist in Colorado. “Here’s the parent busily doing something and the kid is playing with the electronic device. Where is the language? There is none.”

Tovah P. Klein, the director of Columbia University’s Barnard College Center for Toddler Development (where signs forbid the use of cellphones and other wireless devices) worries that fixation on the iPhone screen every time a child is out and about with parents will limit the child’s ability to experience the wider world. “Children at this age are so curious and they’re observing everything,” she said. “If you’re engrossed in this screen you’re not seeing or observing or taking it in.”

Debate on the iPhone-as-toy issue is fierce on the mommy blogs, reports the Times.

I got a smart phone (Droid X) not long ago. On my last trip, I used to check e-mail and browse the web, including approving blog comments, while on the go. It is somewhat addictive.

About Joanne


  1. Children learn whatever you teach them, and whatever they learn in the early years will determine how they function in their later years. As much as you want them to be savvy 21st century electronics users, they still do live in a concrete world and need to be able to function in it.
    Neglecting to teach them how to interact with reality will come to haunt them… and society as a whole. I see numerous examples of this in my classes… middle and high school students who can easily traverse the web and text without looking at their phone, yet struggle to explain how they tie their shoes in the morning.

  2. Joanne, you say your new phone was somewhat addictive. Addictive or not, you are an adult who can make value judgments about how to spend your time and which devices to use. Toddlers don’t have that sense developed yet. I’d say, in a pinch when you have a crying kid in the shopping cart and you just need to get through the checkout line, go ahead, use your phone for distraction. But other people are the best toys a child can have. And some boxes and balls.

  3. My 2-year old daughter has a few games that she loves to play on my iPhone. She spends, on average, 10 minutes or so, every other day on it.

    Moderation, however, doesn’t make exciting headlines.

  4. The only one of my kids whom I actually trust to touch my smartphone (or any other portable electronic device) is my 8 y.o. The almost 5 y.o. and the 1 3/4 y.o. are WAY too destructive!

    Who are these parents that can afford to be so cavalier about a very expensive electronic device????