Tablet PCs and mobile devices are hyper-intuitive and ever-popular breed of consumer electronics device that marries the best aspects of PCs and portable media players with smartphones’ versatile nature and connectivity. These slate-like tablets use a touchscreen interface to help kids surf the web, play games, email, download software and enjoy multimedia content. As we note in bestselling book Parenting High-Tech Kids: The Ultimate Internet, Web, and Online Safety Guide, these devices also present whole new range of parenting concerns. Here’s what you need to know to alleviate them.
Among today’s hottest new forms of mobile computing, thanks to burgeoning interest in the category (largely kick-started by the success of Apple’s bar-raising iPad and Amazon’s wildly successful Kindle units), tablet PCs and mobile devise are becoming an increasingly popular part of family life – and one being introduced to kids at an earlier age. Capable of running apps (a.k.a. software programs), music, videos, web browsers, eBooks and more, a recent report from comScore underscores the growing ubiquity and of tablet computers: Whereas it took seven years for 40 million Americans to purchase a smartphone, tablet PCs reached this milestone in less than two years alone.
Interestingly, the majority of parents and families trust their kids to have tablets because of the potential educational benefits. Research from iYogi Insights shows that 92% of parents approve of an iPad as a homework tool, and that on average, parents are willing to allow their kids to use these tablets for nearly two hours a day.
Whether you own an iPad or Android-based model, there are literally dozens of new tablet choices available today, with even popular eReaders increasingly starting to sport similar functionality. Knowing this, the question is quickly changing from whether or not your family owns or intends to purchase one, to rather which system(s) your household prefers. Capable of being used in similar fashion as a home PC, albeit in a portable, motion-sensing format, many experts suggest that a family’s tablet usage habits should be more closely akin to how members share their living room TV. Instead of everyone in the family purchasing their own, they suggest that these devices are great for sharing, and can be used for streaming movies, listening to music or playing games in mixed company.
Ultimately, parents need to know that tablets (and even digital music and portable media players such as iPod touch units, which are starting to sport similar capabilities, albeit on a smaller scale) can be customized and used in similar fashion as home PCs. They therefore need to be aware of access and browsing habits, stay abreast of content being consumed, and configure these devices so that kids can’t rack up unwanted bills, or access questionable media, apps, services or websites on their own. Happily, parental controls are built into most of these devices, and parents can use them as a basic starting line of defense against the most common issues.
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