Children and tablets (the electronic kind) - too much, too young?

Christmas 2013 we bought both of our girls Android tablets as their main present.  The girls wanted to play different games hubby and I had on our phones so rather than use all our battery life when we may actually need to make a call at some point (I know, shocking right?) we decided it would be a good idea to get them their own tablets to use.

As I'm not an Apple person (unless it's the fruit), I'm therefore also no mug so we found some great little tablets on eBay - new - and got them for less than £50 each with a case.  The girls loved their tablets. They had all sorts of educational games on them ranging from Letter Eggs through to counting and alphabet puzzles.  Of course, gradually they also had Farm Heroes Saga, Rayman and many other pure 'games' that they wanted too.

We used to let them use their tablets after school whilst I was cooking dinner. A bit of 'down time' for everyone. TV off, tablets for fun.  But then the problems started.

I noticed that the girls were not getting to sleep well. I thought it was a phase and never honestly considered it was their tablet use that was causing it at first.  The phase went on.  Sleep was becoming an issue. They just seemed to be wide awake still at 9pm!  This was crazy. They go to bed at 7 and yet, although physically in bed, they didn't sleep. They would chat, giggle, screech, cry...pretty much everything happened nearly every night.  Hubby and I were baffled.  We aren't daft folk but sometimes you can't see the problem even when you're staring straight at it with children as they have quite a few quirks during their growing up years!

One weekend, their tablets ran out of battery quite quickly as I'd forgotten to charge them up the night before.  They played for about 30 minutes before they both went off.  Of course, the girls went back to colouring, watching some TV, reading, etc and do you know what...yep, you guessed it - they went to bed just fine.

Hubby and I thought about this.  We decided that tablets were not to be used after school any more and only at weekends, during the day (well before bedtime) and even then, an hour maximum.  Bedtime problems ceased.  The girls still enjoyed their time on the tablets, but now they focused back on other games and toys too and stopped constantly wanting the tablets.

Over-stimulation was all we could think.  Despite them not playing with the tablets for hours on end, clearly the games/screen brightness was affecting them. I mentioned this to a friend who commented that one of her friends was having problems with her son with the same sleep issues and he was also using a tablet after school. She was going to pass on our thoughts.  I hope it helped.

We're not stodgy parents.  We are, in fact, quite relaxed.  However, the girls do not need the TV on or the tablets in front of them to have fun. They do just as well colouring, reading, dressing up their Barbies or making Lego creations.  I think sometimes we become too dependent on technology and think our children should be exposed to it as 'they need to be for school' or 'I don't want them to not be able to use a mouse to properly navigate around the PC' but as I child, I never had this. It didn't affect my ability to use a computer later in life.  It's great that our children are so tech aware but let's remember - they are still children. That old problem of them being stuck in front of the TV for too long is still there - except now it's portable technology!


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