I am a Mac addict. I simply love Apple products, from the computer I am writing on now to my iPhone, iPod (yes, I have both; the iPod is leftover from before I bought the iPhone, and I still keep it for times when I want music, video and apps but do not want phone calls, which happens to be most of the time), and now my iPad. You know who else loves my iPad? The kids. I am sorely tempted to invest in more iPads simply to get rid of the arguing over whose turn it is to use my iPad. Unfortunately, it is simply not in the budget to provide iPads for four children, and if I buy them one at a time, there will be more crying, screaming and gnashing of teeth. Try explaining to your youngest that your daughter deserves to get a cool gadget first since she has waited 12 years for it as opposed to his 7 years. Oh wait, my youngest has a twin brother, so try explaining that twice.

Now, something about my children. You buy the boys action figures, and the time between removal from the package and the loss of an arm can be measured in nanoseconds. And my daughter could somehow scratch titanium, I am sure of it. So why do I even consider letting these destructive little monsters use a sweet gadget like my iPad? Well, think of all the sweet things that can be done with an iPad, and suddenly you will want your kids to use it.

Educational apps are fun and, well, educational. They give your kids an extra edge in an age when knowledge is so important. Also, many studies have demonstrated that games increase problem solving skills and things like hand to eye coordination. And let’s not forget how fun reading is on an iPad, and anythign that makes your kids want to read is a good thing.

So, how do we keep it all under control? How do we avoid the arguments and be fair about doling out time on one iPad to four children, while still keeping some access to it for me? Well, like all things related to children, there is no simple answet to this complicated question. Just some ideas for you to build on.

Make them earn their time: trade iPad time for completing chores, homework, or good grades. My house has never been cleaner than when I implemented that rule.

  1. Get them reading: remember what I said about reading being fun on an iPad? Trade them game time for reading time. I am fully convinced that the best thing a kid can do to jump start their desire to learn is to read a lot, so use your nifty gadget to give your kids an edge.
  2. Play games together: rather than using your iPad as some sort of virtual babysitter, use it as a vehicle to spend some quality time wiht your kids. Just try to keep in mind that if you are a gamer yourself, let the kiddo win occasionally, and leave out the language you commonly use when playing Xbox Live (“You got owned, you expletive deleted expletive deleted expletive deleted…”)
  3. Movies and Videos: Use that Netflix account, man! If you can find a movie that the kids all want to see together, there goes some of the arguments. And my smallest son (not the youngest, the smaller of our fraternal twins, who is 3 minutes older than the other) just loves watching YouTube videos of the next remote control boat/plane/zeppelin/helicopter he dreams of.

Using your iPad with your kids or to entertain them is a great tool. It will help your kids to get accostumed to techy gizmos and to take care of fragile items. Just use some discretion in how much they get to use it to avoid spoiling them.