Should I Get My Kid an iPad?

By Andrea Nelson
December 12, 2023
Two children using iPad for kids

With all the talk about the dangers of too much screen time, it can be hard to know if a tablet is the right choice for your kid. And is an iPad for kids even safe? If you’re wondering if you should get your kid a tablet this holiday season, here are key pros and cons to help you make the decision.

Why do you want an iPad for kids?

As you decide if you should get your kid an iPad, one of the first things to do is to think about why you’re considering it and how you envision it being used. 

Perhaps you’re looking for an easy-to-transport distraction for long car rides. Maybe you’re interested in educational apps for their enrichment potential. Or maybe you’re keen to make sure your child keeps up with their tech-savvy peers. 

Identifying your motivation for getting a tablet for kids can help frame your decision as you weigh the pros and cons. 

Pros of iPads for kids

  • There is a plethora of educational content available for iPads, both in the form of passive learning (such as shows and audiobooks) as well as interactive apps. 
  • From music-making to drawing to animation, there’s no shortage of apps that foster creativity and provide your child with the opportunity to express themselves. 
  • When implemented thoughtfully, rewards systems (such as earning tablet time) can be an effective parenting tool.
  • Research indicates potential benefits of iPad use, such as improving children’s vocabulary and math skills and boosting language use and social interaction in children with cognitive delays. 
  • Apps like FaceTime and Messenger Kids can help children stay in touch with family living far away.  

Cons of iPads for kids

  • Experts caution that excessive screen time may lead to problems in social-emotional development and contribute to certain behavior problems. 
  • Access to the internet increases the potential for exposure to inappropriate content. 
  • iPads provide a limited sensory environment and no physical exertion.
  • Not all apps are created equal, and many labeled as educational have little to no such benefit. 
  • When parents overuse devices to entertain their children, kids miss out on the benefits of boredom.  

Questions to ask yourself before you get an iPad for your kid

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no devices for children younger than two, with the exception of video chatting. Even if your child is old enough, that doesn’t necessarily mean an iPad is right for them. 

Here are some questions to ask yourself aside from age: 

  • Is my child able to follow rules and respect limits? 
  • Will my child tell me if they come across inappropriate content? 
  • Am I prepared to set (and maintain) rules and limits for iPad use? 

Parental controls on the iPad

While it’s always a good idea to maintain some level of supervision over your child’s iPad time, parental controls are an excellent compliment to your watchful eye. This guide from Apple gives step-by-step instructions for setting up parental controls. 

Here are the main parental controls to look for: 

  • Content & privacy restrictions
  • Prevent iTunes and App Store purchases
  • Prevent explicit content and content ratings
  • Prevent web content 
  • Screen time limits
  • Restrict Siri web search

You can also use a parental monitoring app, such as BrightCanary, to supervise your child’s browsing habits. BrightCanary uses advanced AI to monitor your child’s Google, YouTube, social media, and text message activity, and you’ll get an alert if your child encounters anything problematic.

Establishing rules for iPad use

It’s best to set rules around iPad use from the very beginning. Be clear with your child about expectations and if there are consequences for not following them. 

The rules you set will depend on what’s right for your family, but here are some to consider:

  • Time limits: Decide how much iPad time is permitted each day and if that limit is the same on weekends and school breaks. 
  • When is iPad use allowed? Do you want iPad use to be at the same time each day, or can it vary? Are there times when screens are off-limits? Do you expect your child to do chores or homework before using their device? 
  • Device-free zones: Many families designate device-free zones, such as no devices in bedrooms to facilitate parental supervision. Or perhaps the dining table or family room are off-limits to encourage bonding time in these spaces. 
  • Content expectations: You might establish a designated list of apps and websites that your child can choose from, or a set of no-gos. Alternately, some parents expect their child to check in each time before using the iPad. 

Once you’ve established your family’s rules around iPad use, consider writing it into a digital device contract

The bottom line

It’s important that parents consider both the pros and the cons before getting their child an iPad and establish clear expectations around its use. A tablet is a connected device, and as such, it can expose your child to the entire world of the internet. Parental control settings and monitoring apps can help give you peace of mind — and set a safety net for your child’s online experience. Stay connected to your child’s online activity with BrightCanary monitoring. You’ll be able to monitor their YouTube searches and posts, Google searches, and more, directly from your phone. Download the app today and start your free trial.

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