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Friday, August 5, 2011

Should a School Require Parents to Buy iPads for Their 9 Year Olds?


Image: John Cave Osborne

Yesterday was a red-letter day for my nine-year-old daughter, as it was the first day in her entire life that she could legitimately say she was more technologically advanced than I. And I’m blaming her school. After all, they’re the ones who required that I buy her an iPad, a toy I’ve yet to even buy myself. And I’m not so sure how I feel about it.

I mean, on the one hand, I suppose I’m okay with it — at least from a conceptual standpoint.

After all, my daughter attends a private school, and in my opinion, a private school can ask anything they want of their student body. No one’s holding a gun to the parents’ heads forcing them to enroll their children there. What’s more, I attended that school back in the day, so I know firsthand what a great place it is — I believe in it.

Besides, I think every single school, public or private, should do whatever it can to deliver the best education possible to its students. And it’s obvious that my daughter’s school feels that having students in grades 3 through 12 use an iPad to navigate the school’s curriculum will do just that. They have a very detailed plan with regard to how the entire process will work, and the communication of that plan has been excellent.

So, again, conceptually, I’m reasonably okay with my soon-to-be fourth grader having an iPad for educational purposes.

But yesterday that concept turned into reality, and I have to admit, I’m not quite as okay with it as I had thought. Our daughter just seems too... young to have an iPad. To her, it’s nothing more than a toy, one on which she spent all day downloading various apps and games. One which she repeatedly flaunted to her younger siblings. One which may as well have been a $600 rubber ball.

Yet not only do I feel she’s too young to appreciate it, I’m also concerned she’s too young to take proper care of it. Within the first few hours of ownership, the screen was already filthy and when she tried to charge it, she inserted the charger the wrong way, then proceeded to try to force it in. Luckily, I was there to show her the correct way to insert it.

Once the newness of the iPad wears off a bit, I’m sure that it won’t be quite as sexy to her as it is now, which means that she won’t always want to sleep right next to it (joke?). Which also means that she’ll eventually begin to regard it as the serious thing that it is. Yet, even so, it’s obvious that I'm going to have to monitor her use of the iPad very closely. And, well, with four kids under the age of four in the house? I'm kinda up to my ears in monitoring at the moment.

And all of these thoughts have me wondering whether or not the school is doing the right thing by requiring students in grades 3 through 12 to have an iPad. Given that this is the first year of the new policy, and given that during this first year there are bound to be glitches, it seems to me that it might have been prudent to have only required the older students, say those in high school, to acquire the devices.

Yet, my reservations don’t stem from glitches which may or may not happen during this inaugural year. My reservations stem from a sixth sense that tells me that my daughter is just too young to have an iPad.

All that said, I’m certainly going to give it a go. And I will totally do my part to assure that my daughter gains all the educational value from her iPad that the school believes she will. And I'm hoping that my sixth sense is wrong. Besides, I think it's entirely possible that my skepticism is ill-founded.

After all, she hasn’t even had the thing for 24 hours yet, and she’s already MONEY at Garage Band. And don't even get me started on Angry Birds.

So what say you, parents? How would you feel if you had to buy an iPad for your 9-year-old?