I Let My Child 'Play' on Her iPad as Much as She Wants To

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Among the parents at my daughter's school, a significant number have become obsessed with the notion of "screen time." As with many obsessions, this one has morphed from well-intentioned parenting to an exercise in irrationality.

For several generations, some form or another of media have contributed to our children's growth, development and education.

The experience of consuming information and entertainment as kids and young adults has simply expanded exponentially and moved to mostly digital platforms. Thanks to Apple ( AAPL), my daughter engages with a wide array of subjects at a level she would never have been able to obtain pre-iPad. That's what makes Apple a fantastic investment; it's truly a world, game and life-changing company.

You don't invest in AAPL because some self-interested egomaniacal billionaire bullies the CEO. You invest in AAPL because it drives a whole new way of learning about and communicating with the world around you; because it fosters the proliferation of terms such as "screen time" in households across the world; because hypocritical parents obsess over the amount of time their children spend on mobile devices -- Apple-branded or copycats -- as they incessantly talk, text and post to their identity-forming Facebook ( FB) page.

When I noticed my 10-year old spending more and more time on her iPad, I was initially concerned. But then I noticed what she was doing. How she was growing cognitively and creatively.

Certainly, there's lots of Minecraft going on (which isn't necessarily a bad thing), but there's also educationally wholesome activities that go way beyond reading.

Google's ( GOOG) YouTube facilitates learning and growing as much as Apple does. Of course, Apple facilities YouTube usage.

At the moment, my daughter uses YouTube to watch tutorials on how to play guitar, make wallets and other items out of duct tape and use something called a "Rainbow Loom" to create all sorts of rubber (?) jewelry. She creates her own videos in these areas and others. When she first started she fumbled her way around Apple's iMovie application; now she's close to becoming a pro.

Her comfort and skill level with an iPad and related electronic devices puts her in a position to succeed. Our (my wife and I) leniency with how much time our daughter spends on her devices appears to have helped create a child who self-regulates her "screen time." Often, watching a video on YouTube serves as little more than a springboard to hours' worth of creative play time that doesn't involve the use of consumer electronics.

She's crafting. Building. Devising. Creating. The iPad -- and all it entails -- triggered that process. It certainly wasn't this easy to be productive and creative when I was a kid using pamphlets, books and, if I was lucky, some clumsy program on my Commodore 64 to play and pick up new skills.

And, there are times -- lots of times -- when my daughter simply wants nothing to do with her iPad. She'd rather kick back and listen to music, via Internet radio, most often served up through our Roku player. Or curl up with a good book. Or run around the house like a wild person. Or play with the cat. Or her hamster, which, by the way, she knows quite a bit about thanks to YouTube tutorials. As with AAPL, I'm thinking that's at least half an endorsement for an investment in GOOG.

Contrast this story with those of militant parents who place Draconian regulations on their kids' "screen time."

When some of these kids come into our home, they're akin to addicts on coke binges. They simply cannot pull themselves away from the tablet they brought with them or my daughter's iPad. In fact, this dynamic has led to my daughter, during playdates (I bleeping hate that word) with children who get very limited "screen time" at home, stating that she's had enough of the iPad.

By letting our daughter determine for herself how long she can spend on these screens, I really think my wife and I have a kid on our hands who largely uses them for enrichment. If that's not happening, she gets bored. Fast.

Granted, we also have a naturally smart child. She's not the type to get brain sucked into inanity. But there's no question that a good number of her digitally restricted friends (some can't use mobile devices at all!) are just as bright, if not brighter, than she is. In my mind, they deserve the same opportunity to explore this new world, not be restricted from it just because it's unfamiliar to their millennial or Generation X parents.

But, more importantly, as the Common Core Standards are fully implemented within a few years, your third grader, for example, will need to know his or her way around technology simply to complete an assessment. That's all part of what will soon become a "buzz-phrase" -- making our kids "21st Century learners."

Increasingly, we live in a world where you can't get by without knowing how to use iPads and similar devices. If you're keeping your kids from this stuff because of irrational fears over addiction or brain drain, you're actually setting your children up to fail. The Los Angeles Unified School District, say what you will about it, is in the process of equipping every child in every school with an iPad. In some places, that's all young people use -- and certainly this will become the norm -- in high school and throughout college. In the workplace, now scarce, paper will soon become a thing of the past.

Simply put, if you shield your kids from what's relevant today, you're setting them up to be cultural and educational idiots tomorrow. If we banned books from our children's lives, some might -- rightfully -- accuse us of a form of child abuse. I don't see how it's any different putting them at what is now a painfully obvious technological disadvantage.

-- Written by Rocco Pendola in Santa Monica, Calif.

Rocco Pendola is a columnist and TheStreet's Director of Social Media. Pendola makes frequent appearances on national television networks such as CNN and CNBC as well as TheStreet TV. Whenever possible, Pendola uses hockey, Springsteen or Southern California references in his work. He lives in Santa Monica.

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