Let me just start by saying that, yes, I have absolutely and without shame used an electronic gadget as a babysitter for my kids on more than one occasion. In fact, anytime we are expected to be on the road for longer than 30 minutes, I make sure that I have my iPod Touch charged up for my 9-year-old, and my Kindle Fire ready for my 6-year-old. This strategy has brought peace and harmony to situations that were otherwise dicey (14-hour road trip to Florida, anyone?) and even provided me the opportunity to listen to my own choice of radio station in the car.
And it looks like I'm not alone.
A new study has revealed that 60 percent of children use a mobile app on their parents' devices at least four times a week. A quarter of those kids play apps daily. And more than half (58 percent) of parents felt guilty about it.
Of course, I should also mention that this study was commissioned by Rucker Media, which presented the study at an MIT conference on play at the same time that it launched its new free iPad app for kids, Ruckus Reader, that offers three reading levels for kids. Their slant is that you'll feel less guilty if your kids are playing an educational app rather than just catapulting birds into rocks.
According to their survey, most parents have fewer than five educational apps installed on their phones or tablets. But for those who had more — at least 10 educational apps on their phone — only 42 percent felt guilty when they let their kids play.
So is the issue about whether or not parents are using gadgets as electronic babysitters or whether or not we feel guilty about it?
Similar to the argument about technology in the classroom, electronic gadgets — even when they are used for education — count as screen time for kids. And the bottom line is that while this may be fine in moderation, it is not healthy for kids if it starts to take the place of outdoor play, physical activity, reading, school work or social interaction with friends and family.
But stress-free parents are also good for kids. So if handing over your gadgets helps you get through the grocery store checkout process a little easier, I don't think there is anything to feel guilty about, even if your child is playing a less-than-educational game.
What do you think? Do you use your electronic gadgets as babysitters for your kids? Do you feel guilty about it?