Toddlers & iPhones: Why Would You Give Your iPhone to Your Kid?

I love my iPhone. It’s probably the third favorite thing in my life. You know, my wife, my kids, then my iPhone. I’m really fond of it.

That’s why it confuses people when I just hand it over to my 3 year old and let him play with it. He loves it. It’s probably his favorite toy. The touch interface is so intuitive that he was able to pick up how to interact it in a very short amount of time. He’s able to recognize the icons of his apps, open them and interact with them. He knows how to swipe the pages.

We introduced my oldest boy to the iPhone (a first gen) when he was about 18 months old. By that age he was out of his chewing stage, his fine motor skills were pretty good, and he was walking well.

At first it offered us about 10 minutes of peace while he messed around with typing and flipping through pictures. Once Apple launched the App Store, we found some great apps for him to play with. Now he’ll play on the iPhone for up to 30 minutes before he gets bored.

I’ll do a run down of which apps I keep on my phone for him in a later post.

Isn’t the iPhone pretty expensive for a toddler toy?

Now, I’m not suggesting that you go out of your way to buy your child an iPhone or an iPod Touch. That’s just plain silly.

However, I’m sure you’ve found yourself in a situation where you don’t have a single toy for your toddler and you need to keep him occupied. That’s where the iPhone comes in handy. It’s just good to be prepared before the situation comes up.

The educational benefits have been noticeable in our house. The three year old has a solid grasp on colors, letters, and counting. He totally owns the memory games as well.

Protect the iPhone

Before you consider handing off that wonderful piece of technology to a drooling, chewing, sticky child, make sure you have appropriate protection. Apply a screen protector. The iPhone screen isn’t covered under warranty or AppleCare, so screen protectors are worth their weight in gold.

You’ll also need to get a decent case. Don’t cheap out; pick one with some shock protection. I can’t recommend the InCase Slider. I’ve owned and broken two of them. Luckily they protected the iPhone, but at $35 a pop, I couldn’t keep buying them.

Screen protectors and cases are key, but don’t overlook the parenting portion of your iPhone’s safety. Teach the child to be gentle and careful with the iPhone. Don’t let your child play with it unsupervised (at least in the beginning). Here are a few of our rules:

  • We do not chew the iPhone.
  • We do not wave the iPhone around.
  • We do not throw the iPhone.
  • We don’t hit or tap hard on the iPhone.
  • Hold it with two hands.
  • Stay out of the important apps (Settings, Clock, Messages, Email, etc).

If any of these are disobeyed, we immediately take the iPhone away. We’ve tried to limit his temptation to go into unauthorized apps by placing all of his apps on one page. It’s not perfect, but it has helped a lot. The iPhone’s new parental controls may help you prevent your child from accessing those apps.

Kids are different

All kids are different, so what worked for us may not work for you and your family. I think it’s really important for children to start learning about and interacting with technology. The iPhone is perfect for this since the interface is touch-centric. The child can simply recognize a picture and touch it.

At this time only one of our two children is allowed to play with the iPhone. Our youngest just turned one and we’re slowing introducing him to the device. He’s very interested in it, so we let him play with it while we hold him. He’s also prone to chewing, so his time with it is pretty limited.

Have any questions? Ask them in the comments. What’s keeping you from letting your child play with your iPhone?

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~ by mitchbolton on January 27, 2010.

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