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Page 10 - Friday, October 28, 2011

Squirmy toddler? There’s an app for that Rasha Madkour

The Associated Press

MIAMI — There’s a new routine these days whenever Amber Mullaney goes out to eat at a restaurant. While waiting to be seated, she asks her husband to get the phone ready to hand over to their 2-year-old daughter, Tatum. The phone — with its ability to stream episodes of Dora the Explorer — is a godsend, Mullaney says. Attempts at going out without whipping out the gadget have been disastrous, the Denver mom says. Her curious, independent toddler gets into everything. Salt shakers are fiddled with, drinks are spilled. “She’ll color for a little bit or talk with us for a little bit, but it’s short-lived,” Mullaney says. “It’s miserable because all she wants to do is get out.” With the iPhone, however, Tatum sits quietly in the booth while her parents get to enjoy a meal. Mullaney, a marketing manager for a technology company, sometimes wishes they could do without the phone because she doesn’t want people to think they’re using technology to shut their child up, but she also doesn’t want to give up going out.

“Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do,” she says. Mullaney is in good company. About 40 percent of 2- to 4-yearolds (and 10 percent of kids younger than that) have used a smartphone, tablet or video iPod, according to a new study by the nonprofit group Common Sense Media. Roughly 1 in 5 parents surveyed said they give their children these devices to keep them occupied while running errands. There are thousands of apps targeted specifically to babies and toddlers — interactive games that name body parts, for example, or sing nursery rhymes. It has become commonplace to see little ones flicking through photos on their parents’ phones during church or playing games on a tablet during a bus, train or plane ride. Parents of newborns rave about an app that plays white noise, a womblike whoosh that lulls screaming babies to sleep. In fact, toymaker Fisher Price has just released a new hard case for the iPhone and iPod touch, framed by a colorful rattle, which allows babies to play while promising protection from “dribbles, drool and unwanted call-making.” Denise Thevenot acknowledges that some people would look askance at the idea of giving a

Photo by gerald herbert/ap photo

Frankie Thevenot, 3, plays with an iPad in his bedroom at his home in Metairie, La. About 40 percent of 2- to 4-year-olds (and 10 percent of kids younger than that) have used a smartphone, tablet or video iPod, according to a new study by the nonprofit group Common Sense Media.

child a $600 device to play with — she had the same concerns initially. Then she discovered the sheer potential. “The iPad is movies, books and games all wrapped in one nice package,” says Thevenot, who works in the New Orleans tourism industry. The iPad, she says, keeps her 3-year-old son Frankie busy for hours. And, when needed, taking it away “is the greatest punishment. ... He loves it that much.” Kaamna Bhojwani-Dhawan is an unapologetic proponent of the trend.

“If you’re raising children, you’ve got to raise them with the times,” says Bhojwani-Dhawan, who lives in Silicon Valley and founded the family travel website Momaboard. com. “If adults are going all digital, how can we expect children to be left behind?” Her 2 1/2-year-old, Karam, loves the GoodieWords app, which explains complex concepts like “shadow” and “electricity.” Other favorites are a memory matching game with farm animals and a drawing program. Bhojwani-Dhawan points out

that Karam also has books, crayons and Legos. “It’s not replacing any of these things; it’s one more thing he’s getting exposed to,” she says. Experts say balance is key. “It’s really important that children have a variety of tools to learn from. Technology gadgets can be one of those tools, but they shouldn’t dominate, especially when we’re talking about very young children,” says Cheryl Rode, a clinical psychologist at the San Diego Center for Children, a nonprofit that provides mental health services.

the october 28th issue of southern digest  
the october 28th issue of southern digest  

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