What the iPad Changes (and What It Doesn't)
What's the buzz on the Apple iPad? That it just may be the first true family computer. It's not only easy and fun to use, it can power more robust apps than the iPhone and iPod Touch -- providing nearly endless possibilities for every member of the family. As with all new technologies kids discover, parents have a responsibility to learn what it is, how to use it, and what it's capable of -- and to develop appropriate rules for its use.
Lots of Options
At a starting price of $499, the Apple iPad isn't cheap. Families who get one will have a huge world of options at their fingertips. Browse the iTunes store and you'll find lots of apps for kids as young as preschool age.
As cool as it is, remember that it's yet another way for kids to spend more time interacting with media. This is another vehicle for our kids to access games, music, and movies -- and considering that kids are already spending nearly 7.5 hours a day consuming media, the iPad's use should be balanced against all the other screens and media that kids are exposed to.
Robust Parental Controls
The iPad's powerful features will require some thinking through. Fortunately, the iPad's oomph allows for even more parental control than the iPhone. You can turn off many of its features, including Internet access, YouTube, and the location-finding feature. You can also set restrictions for the type of content your iPad will play, including apps, movies, and TV shows.
Since the device has Wi-Fi access, you'll need to apply the same rules you apply to gaming, searching, communicating, and privacy of online life to the iPad.
Location Sharing Pitfalls
The iPad has assisted GPS technology, which means that your kids' locations can be identified either for advertising or contact purposes. Social mapping applications make it easier for people to meet based on their location.
Setting Download Limits
Most of the content that kids will want comes through the iTunes store -- and that costs money. So make sure you have a strategy for dealing with how they're going to be paying for stuff. Do you really want your kids having access to your account? You might consider giving them account allowances or purchasing iTunes cards.
Some people are saying that the iPad will change the world. And, yes, the iPad is a technological innovation that delivers on Apple's promise to "think different." But there are some things that don't change -- and that's the effect that informed and engaged parents can have on their kids' media lives.
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