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Smartphones or Tablets as Part of Instructional Technology

When to introduce tablets or smartphones to my child

At what age should we introduce our child to smartphones or tablets? When is it okay to buy them their own gadgets? How much screen time should they be exposed to?

Let me throw in one more question, what is instructional technology?


Media lives by age
While these are UK stats, I don't think the US or the Philippines are far off.

Before a child even reaches the age of 2 years old, they can navigate those touch screens like a pro. 

By the age of 4, it's possible that they have explored our smartphones more than we did.

It's easy to get caught up. Wow! These gadgets work like magic in calming down a child with a tantrum, right? 

If you want to eat peacefully, it's tempting to hook them into educational applications. 

Tired from work? There are read-aloud books too! Hey! Why not? It highlights each word as they are read!  

No wonder there are unlimited videos made just for kids on Youtube. These kids watch in loops tirelessly!


Last year at Kindergarten, Lucas did not mind that he was the only one in their school bus without a tablet.  He would watch the other kids play games. Sometimes he gets lucky when they let him borrow.

One day after school at Grade 1, he was trying to convince me to allow him to bring his tablet to school. 

He said, "Do you know that tablets are powerful? It helps keep us calm. When we are calm, the driver won't be distracted, then we will be safe!" I simply took it as an opportunity to point out that he is using his "Thinking Skills" (IBPYP learning profile) with the purpose of persuasion.

Later that night, he was trying to convince me to let him play games on the tablet. He threw a little tantrum (something he never does with his dad). I let him cry a little bit and reminded him that he is NEVER allowed to play games during weekdays. And that if he behaves, he can play online games with his Kuya in Australia during the weekend.

Realizing that he really won't get what he wants, he calmed down and decided to watch TV.

Do you think we are strict? Well, I think it's just right. It wasn't always this way though. I also asked other parents out. 

In this article:
  • Our story about screen time, including mistakes & correction 
  • What is Instructional Technology?
  • Utilizing Parental Controls on the tablet
  • How do other parents utilize technology for their child's learning?

Our Story

Our pediatrician was strict when it comes to screen time. NO SCREEN TIME!

That's what she said. She was following the guidelines of the American Pediatrics Association.

After a few months, the guideline changed. 2 HOURS OF SCREEN TIME PER DAY! Yup, those two hours include TV and any other screens.

We complied. Well, until the time we thought we were going to Canada in 2016. My husband will go on a US-business trip and we thought why not go to Canada to visit his sisters? Lucas was less than 2 years old at that time. Since only the two of us will be on a long airplane ride by ourselves, a tablet seemed like a good idea.

Ang ending? My husband went to Ontario after his US trip. I went on a business trip to Vancouver right after his trip. Lucas ended up using the tablet at 2 years old. Toinks!

We made a few mistakes about it and here it goes...

1. No set time and limit

That's right. Whenever it is convenient for me to let him use the tablet. Sige lang! During mealtime, in the car, and especially at night when I'm tired from work and just want some screen time for myself.  It was justified because he was watching educational videos.

What's wrong with that? Well, we want to teach kids to be patient. That sometimes they need to wait for things. We want to teach them that there is time for everything. Time for eating, time for studying, time for sleeping. 

Watching TV or using a tablet during mealtime is not exactly good training for FOCUS.

2. Inappropriate contents

Watching the wrong shows made it worst. A specific example is Peppa Pig. Peppa sometimes says things like, "I don't want!" cutely but with a tone of a spoiled child. Lucas copied that. 

They also laugh at accidents saying "It's a little bit funny." He immediately copied those. In fairness, we were quick to respond once I noticed. Goodbye Peppa Pig!

Children are resilient, flexible, and will have fun no matter what. 

Here's how we corrected it:

1. Hid the tablet away. 

That's right. We did not allow him to use it anymore. Remember what I've been saying? Cold turkey works! Sure, there will be some crying at the start but soon enough he switched his attention back to toys. 

A trick that worked for us when we dine out is by giving him a NEW toy or anything interesting. It's enough to keep him occupied during the meal.

Caveat: There is such a thing as screen addiction when it comes to using these gadgets. You may want to consult your pediatrician. They say kids also undergo withdrawal syndromes.

2. Outdoor activities. 

We lived in a DMCI Community back in the Philippines. We would find time to take him out to the playground or swim at the pool in the morning and afternoon.

3. Play the silly stuff with him. 

One show that we do not allow him to watch even now is Ryan's Toy Review. Don't get me wrong, they are good! His mom is the best. She knows how to keep the children engage and they really make an effort to think about all sorts of activities!

While watching the show, I felt guilty. Is he going to sit and watch another child have fun, then he's supposed to enjoy it? Is this how he's supposed to see the world? Watching another child go to different places?

No. As parents, WE should be thinking about those kinds of activities and enjoy it with them too.

According to Dr. Carolyn Jaynes, a learning designer for Leapfrog Enterprises, younger children learn best from real-world experiences and interactions. Each minute spent on the screen is a minute when they are not exploring the world and using all their senses - crucial to their development process!

4. Watch appropriate shows and practice co-viewing. 

There are selected shows he's allowed to watch and only on TV. We also watch it with him. It helps in the learning process as we can ask questions to understand their thinking process.

He likes robots and superheroes but it was only when he turned 6 years old when we allowed him to watch an Ironman and a Superman movie.

What is Instructional Technology?

Educational technology embraces all areas of technology in any field of education. 

Instructional technology covers a narrow field dealing with enhancing the teaching and learning process. It makes the process more effective and interesting.

And this my friends, is how we want to utilize those tablets or screentime. 

We need to use it responsibly and as part of their education, not for entertainment!

I am not saying I'm a pro on this okay? I still value some quality time for myself, while I let my son watch TV by himself. Hehe!

Utilizing Parental Controls on Tablets and Smartphones

"Even as the internet and digital entertainment has spurred tremendous creativity and expanded children’s access to a wealth of enriching and entertaining content, they have also raised questions of digital dependency, and ‘screen addiction’, among children. And even as such technologies have greatly enlarged platforms for the free expression of ideas, they have also broadened the distribution of hate speech and other negative content that can shape our children’s view of the world – and of themselves." - Unicef, Children in a Digital World

While our children's chances in life increased and cannot be denied, cybersecurity, and the way these companies exploit human behavior through the internet, is still a public debate among policymakers and parents. 

As parents, we need to stay on guard. This is where I appreciate the Parental Control of Apple's iPad:

  • Downtime - schedule time away from the screen or allow only specific apps during downtime.
  • App Limits - during Downtime, I disabled game apps and others
  • Screen Time - You can limit the screen time for each day of the week.
  • Always Allowed - books and school-related apps
  • Password for Downloading Apps - I only downloaded Youtube Kids, Educational apps, and some games that do not involve violence. Other than that, he needs to request from me.
  • Disabling the Browser - If adults fall prey to fake news what do you expect with kids? Any other link that pops up that would require a browser won't push through. And even if a browser is already open, a new window or even a subdomain won't be allowed.
For inquiry or research, utilize a safe resource like Epic library. Do not leave them alone with Google! There are other safer resources for our young children.

CONTENT MATTERS! How do other parents utilize technology for their children?

  • Similar to our house rules, Mommy Apple only utilizes tablets for school learning.  Even before the pandemic, both our son's school have a subscription to an online library and Mathletics.  Teachers assign books and activities on those apps. Videos are only watched on TV and extra learning practice are done in the old school way.

She copied the Kumon concept of learning where children should answer workbooks independently. I saw a big improvement from Lucas when I enrolled him in Eye Level (Korean version) when he was 4 years old.

Sipag di ba? If you don't want to write, there are a lot of free online resources with printable workbooks.

  • Mommy Noreen uses an app called Simply Piano for her son to learn, well, yeah, obviously - the Piano!
It's a fast and fun way to learn piano from beginner to pro.
Annual subscription for only $120 to unlock the whole thing- see the official site for any update.

  • The Math teacher dad Sir Norlits (YT Channel: Team Argante) allows screentime only after his kids finish their school work. He also let them alternate between toys and apps. Don't kid nowadays want to be a vlogger? Well, he put up a Youtube channel so that his son Norway, a Math wizard, can share his Math techniques with other kids.
  • Mommy Jo and Mommy Joy - wow that rhymed! I promise the names are not made up! Haha! Allowed their kids to explore their artistic talents through Youtube tutorials. As a result:
Zoe creates digital arts using a free app called ibis Paint X. She also writes stories and I'm convincing her to be a guest author. Subscribe to this website to get an email notification.

Zoe also used to watch Equestria girls and copied their art. She watches Youtube tutorials. Now, at 12 years old, she is ready to get out of her comfort zone and try other styles!

Yza also watches Youtube tutorials to practice drawing.

I'm amazed by this sketch because even without the mouth, this looks exactly like Yza's brother - Uno! She said she is still mastering how to sketch the mouth.

  • Wondering how the teens are doing? I asked the teens from our family. These two both believe that the Filipino Youth plays an important role in the betterment of our society. How do they utilize technology to enhance their learning?
    "As a student, I use modern technology as a tool to gather new knowledge almost in an instant. I always make sure to maximize its purpose, but of course, not to the point of cheating. I also use this as a bridge to connect and comprehend things that are not taught in school. Like learning a new language and the culture of another country or place." - Laurenz

    "Technology provides convenience for learning. The proliferation of technology helps students gather information without resorting to traditional methods of researching such as going to the library, manually browsing books, etc." - Jacky Chan

    • Another thing Lucas and I do is to use Google Map's Street View feature. In some countries, you can walk on the streets! Lucas loves this feature because he gets to visit different countries and explore as if he was walking there!

    With Street View, explore world landmarks, see natural wonders, and step inside places such as museums, arenas, restaurants, or small businesses.

    How about you? How do you utilize technology responsibly for your child's learning? We'd love to hear your examples!





    How does the time children spend using digital technology impact their mental well-being, social relationships, and physical activity? Link

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