Are Parents Using the iPhone as a Babysitter?

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It’s nearly impossible to go to a restaurant these days and not see a kid with an iPhone in their hand. Presumably, today’s toddlers aren’t saving their pennies and purchasing their own devices, so it’s safe to assume that children have been given the iPhone as a distraction. However, when does using the iPhone to distract children in times of restlessness cross the line to using the iPhone as a babysitter?


Parenting experts are quick to point out that the design of the iPhone is geared towards tiny hands and an easy-to-operate touch screen interface. Thus, it’s no surprise that children are attracted to the allure of the device. When you combine the attractive look, sounds and feel of the iPhone with the fact that children of toddler age are often interested in being “big kids” and mimicking their parents, it’s only a matter of time until the iPhone leaves Mom’s hands and transfers to their tot.

The question is: when is the appropriate time to allow children to play with the iPhone? A number of blogs have posed this question to parents across the internet, and the answer varies widely. Some moms feel that allowing kids to play iPhone apps while they’re restless or unruly in public settings is simply a reward for poor behavior. Conversely, other moms see no harm in forking over an interactive app to keep kids calm and buy a little bit of adult time.

There’s no doubt that technology will be integral to the education and subsequent careers of our children. Thus, completely denying the child an opportunity to ever play with kid-friendly apps is perhaps robbing them of an opportunity to refine their understanding of evolving technology. In fact, some emerging studies suggest that children who interact with technology like the iPhone excel in education, opposed to children who may simply be set in front of the television for entertainment.

Clearly, there are benefits of introducing children to the iPhone when it is paired with educational, kid-friendly app downloads. Is it a babysitter? For some parents, the answer is inevitably yes. For others, it is a tool.

In order for children to form a healthy relationship with any technology, to learn appropriate behavior in public settings and still experience an appropriate level of physical activity, it’s important for parents to set boundaries. Some of the savvy moms that have posted their feelings about this issue online perhaps said it best when they referred to the iPhone as a “tool” or a “treat.”

Perhaps your child knows that if they eat their meal while out to dinner and interact with the family a bit, that they can enjoy their favorite iPhone game while you wait for the bill. Or, maybe the iPhone lends itself to a little alphabet practice while you pay the bills. However, be sure to combine iPhone time with book time, bike time, crafts time and giving personalized attention to your child. Because although the iPhone may be just about anything you want it to be…It’s never as good as a little love from Mom or Dad.

For more information about the increased use of iPhones for distracting kids, check out these articles:

CNN Tech: “Parents Using iPhones to Entertain Bored Kids”

Unplgged: “Smartphones as Babysitters”

Fast Company: “A is for App: How smart phones, handheld computers sparked an educational revolution”