Can tablets really help kids learn?

Tablets For Learning
It depends how you use them.

“Mom, can I play on your tablet?”

I get the question more often than I like to admit—from my 5 year old and 7 year old. They seem to know it’s my favorite “toy,” so why shouldn’t it be theirs?

Of course I could tell them plenty of reasons—the risks of the open web, access to my work email, I don’t want them to break it or muck it up. Yet with tablets now in the majority of U.S. households1, and a third of all secondary students using school-issued tablets2, it feels like tablets are the learning tool of the future.

Is it my turn to learn to share?

Sharing with caring

Tablets, paired with well-developed content, can be great vehicles for learning, and not just technology skills. Educational games give kids exciting ways to practice adding and subtracting, reading and writing, and more important skills for school. Rewards are often built right in—the only way to advance to the next level, or to unlock the unicorn slippers or the bubble blaster, is to master the challenges in the level you’re on.

Tablets can also open up amazing possibilities for creative play. Children can experiment with sound and light as well as drawing, create and animate their own stories, and make entire worlds come to life.

Some interactive eBooks allow kids to add their voices, look up unfamiliar words and even change the difficulty level, helping them learn to read—not doing the work for them. A recent study by Scholastic3 found that while kids are drawn to both print books and eBooks, reading on kids’ tablets, or e-reading, “seems to offer an exciting opportunity to attract and motivate boys and reluctant readers to read more books.”

The best and maybe most important aspect of tablet learning is that children are in charge of the fun. You don’t have to stand over them saying, do your homework or what letter comes next? No teacher is there insisting that a project be done their way. My kids love the independence, and so they love the learning. It feels like an exciting and empowering way to play.

So about that open web….

Does that mean I’m sharing my tablet?

Not exactly. Not yet. To give my children the freedom they want (not to mention get downtime for me), I want to be sure their experience is age-appropriate, so they can explore and even get help without feeling dependent on me.

Kids’ tablets—and some adult ones—have parental controls that you can adjust to fit your child’s age (and your own comfort level). Settings let you limit screen time, or specific types of screen time like videos, to restrict purchases or to create a safe “walled” web. And by letting them use a tablet that’s only theirs, I can keep my privacy (and professionalism) protected.