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December 17, 2012

Tempted to buy your tot an iPad? As teaching tools, news is mixed

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This suggestion goes against what many parents use the iPad for: a "shut-up toy" — an industry term, according to Common Sense Media — because parents give them to their children in situations where they need them to be quiet, such as in restaurants, waiting rooms and airplanes.

Those are the types of situations when Maryland mother Monica Sakala allows her 3-year-old daughter to play with an iPhone, though not without some guilt.

"I like to think we could go out to dinner and she could color or read a book," Sakala says. "We didn't have this stuff when I was a kid. We had to entertain ourselves. Sometimes I worry it seems lazy to whip [the iPhone] out."

As with most things, the key to iPad use in toddlers, most experts say, is moderation.

"What I tell parents is there are pros and cons," Mistrett says. "But if you're going to do it, look at stories and games together. Don't just hand it to them and walk away."

Mistrett suggests a few guidelines. Limit the amount of time children spend playing apps. Download only age-appropriate apps and games. And perhaps most important: Make sure the kid is blinking.

Saslow is a former Washington Post staff writer.

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