What Is an iPad Kid?

Child using iPad in bed

The term “iPad kid” is all over TikTok right now, thanks in part to the viral rants of Gen Z against what they see as a troubling trend in the generation below them. But what exactly is an iPad Kid? Should parents of young children be worried? And what should you do if you suspect you’re raising an iPad kid?  

What does iPad kid mean?

The term “iPad kid” loosely refers to certain Gen Alpha children — those born since 2010 — who seem constantly glued to their tablets, want technological stimulation at all times, and become upset when their devices are taken away. 

The term also includes observations about how easy access to technology can impact parenting choices. Specifically, when parents routinely rely on devices to ease or avoid difficult moments, they sacrifice opportunities for their child to develop vital skills — like learning how to entertain themselves when they’re bored or behave appropriately in social situations. 

Why parents should be concerned 

Experts point to negative consequences of excessive screen time and overreliance on technology for kids, including tablets and iPads. Some of the risks include: 

Impact on behavior and interpersonal skills 

We’ve all seen the kid watching an iPad at a restaurant while their parents enjoy a meal. 

While it’s totally understandable that overwhelmed and under-supported parents would want a bite in peace, there’s a downside to this convenience: it robs children of the chance to learn etiquette and proper behavior in public. 

Observing and participating in dinner table conversation is also an important way that kids develop interpersonal skills, which they miss if they’re constantly on a device during social hour. 

Additionally, when screens are regularly used to distract kids in situations that require them to wait, they may not develop basic skills such as patience and the ability to manage their frustrations.

Lack of coping skills

When parents hand their child a device the minute they start to get upset, the child misses a chance to develop important coping skills like self-soothing and paying attention to their emotions. Instead, they learn to use screens to manage difficult feelings. 

Less creativity

Boredom helps kids develop important skills, chiefly creativity. If they turn to screens the minute they feel an inkling of boredom, they miss the chance to find creative ways to occupy themselves. 

Underdeveloped motor skills and visual perception

For kids under three, too much time spent in the two-dimensional world of devices can lead to less developed fine motor skills and a lack of visual spatial awareness. Motor development and perceptual skills are developmentally important for kids, and they develop, in part, by interacting with the real world — not screens.

Eye doctors have noted an uptick in short sightedness among children, citing increased screen time as a major contributing factor. 

Warning signs your child might be an iPad kid

If you’re concerned your child might be too dependent on a device, here are some signs to watch for: 

  • Resists engaging in non-screen activities
  • Difficulty controlling their screen time — you set limits, but they can’t deal
  • Hard time transitioning from screen time to their next task
  • Increasingly preoccupied with screens at the expense of real-world interactions
  • Melts down when their screen is taken away
  • Loss of interest in other activities 
  • Shows signs of withdrawal, such as irritability, mood changes, trouble sleeping, headaches, and depression or anxiety

What to do if you’re worried about your child’s screen time

It might be tempting to swing the pendulum in the other direction and issue an outright screen ban. But this can backfire and cause kids to use devices in secret, reducing the chance they’ll reach out to you for help if they encounter any problems online. 

Banning screens entirely also means they miss out on the positive impacts of technology, like learning about new interests and talking to friends. It also limits your ability to teach them how to use devices responsibly — a necessary skill in our modern world. 

Instead, rebalance your family’s relationship with devices using these tips: 

  • Establish appropriate screen time limits.
  • Set a good example by being mindful of your own screen usage. 
  • Help your child select age-appropriate content
  • Turn off autoplay on your child’s device. 
  • Set up parental controls to help regulate screen time and what your child watches. 
  • Use a parental monitoring app like BrightCanary to help you keep tabs on what your child is doing online.  
  • Raising a child takes a village. If possible, reach out for parenting support in your community so you don’t feel as much need to rely on technology. 

In short

The term “iPad kids” refers to a troubling trend of kids who are over-reliant on tablets. Parents should be mindful of their child’s device use and take steps to help them develop healthier screen time habits. 

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