When Gadgets Become Electronic Babysitters

Based on comments from our facebook fans and articles such as this week's column by David Pogue of the NY Times titled "A Parent's Struggle With a Child's iPad Additiction", there seems to clear trend of parents handing their devices to their kids to keep them quiet, or, as Pogue puts it "fostering a love of music, an affinity for theater and expertise in strategy and problem-solving." 

It is true that increasing studies show apps, particularly tablet apps displayed on a large interactive touchscreens can enhance the learning experience. But whether iPads and similar electronics are a good parenting tool or not, we have one suggestion: Clean those grimy iPhones and tablets before handing them to the kids. 

photo by umpcportal
Germs on Devices

Research shows an incredible amount of bacteria builds up on our cell phones from daily use. Several reports, particularly here and here have discussed bacteria buildup on iPads and touchscreen devices specifically, and warn readers of picking up germs with every swipe and pinch of the high resolution touchscreen. 

Today everyone is increasingly using mobile phones everywhere. Whether it's while gripping the germy handles of a shopping cart, the infested rails of a subway or bus, using your cell phone at the gym, or just sitting on a park bench, we're always touching and handling our phones and bacteria from that environment surely makes its way to the surface of the device. 

Mobile Hygiene

This is why doctors for example not only should clean their phones to prevent the spread of infection in hospitals, but also before bringing that same cell phone home...and specially before lending their iPhone to their children to act as magical electronic babysitters, as Pogue admits to doing. 

Pogue is right to exercise moderation when handing his 6 year old his iPad, despite the apparent enhanced learning power of apps designed for children.  But while his dilemma is rooted in the negative physiological effects of electronics on young minds, other harms from touching and using electronics should also be considered by parents, and bacterial infection from tech devices like tablets and specially cell phones which are held to the face, is one of them. 

Do you often lend your cell phone or tablet computer to your children? Are you concerned about any negative effects of your children overusing technology?