iPad Rules for Kids

Last Updated Jan 6, 2011 12:34 PM EST

As I mentioned in a previous post, my husband gave me an iPad for the holidays. While I knew I would have to share it with the whole family, I had no idea my four-year-old daughter would completely monopolize it. I've since created some rules for my new gadget that I think other parents may find useful too.

The Five Commandments
1. Avoid accidents. According to my daughter, iPads are particularly unwieldy and spontaneously fall onto hard surfaces. The solution: young children should only use these devices while sitting on a large soft surface such as a bed. (Call me paranoid, but a sofa seems too narrow to prevent catastrophe.) If you're in the same room as your little one -- think kitchen -- place your gadget on a table and insist your child doesn't pick it up.

2. Download apps sparingly. It's no secret that there are endless games and books geared toward kids in the app store. But that doesn't mean you should let children download at will. Limit the number and type of apps you're willing to acquire on a weekly, or even a monthly, basis. My daughter, for example, is now only allowed one new app a month. While there are plenty of free games to choose from, many of the better ones cost 99 cents or $1.99. Sure this may not initially seem like a lot of money. But if you aren't careful, you could end up spending a few dollars a day.

3. Steer clear of "upgrades". Software developers figured out pretty quickly how to separate money from parents. First, they offer a limited version of their video game apps for free. Then they constantly remind children that a better (read "paid") edition can be downloaded at any time. What's a Mom to do? Teach your little one to always click on the "cancel" button so you don't get charged money for unwanted upgrades. (This article from the Associated Press will also show you how to lock out in-app purchases.)

4. Embrace the library. As I wrote in December, an eBook is not a substitute for a story a child can thumb through. While titles like Bella Goes Bump in the Night closely resemble their paper cousins, others have so many bells and whistles that they feel more like videos and less like literature. So experiment with 21st century versions of your favorite tales but don't neglect your nightly ritual of cuddling up with a picture book.

5. Limit screen time. We all know children shouldn't use any electronic devices on an unlimited basis. But I also think you should constrain your child's iPad use so he remembers this gadget doesn't actually belong to him but to you.

Do you have any other rules you have implemented with your children?

Stacey Bradford is the author of The Wall Street Journal Financial Guidebook for New Parents.
iPad_Home_Screen image courtesy of Flickr, CC 2.0.
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