Millions of parents all over the world use technology to help them raise (and manage) their kids. Smartphones, tablets, video games, and TV are all helpful part-time babysitters for parents—especially moms—because they enable a caregiver to actually step away and breathe for a minute.
But at what point does tech use become harmful for toddlers? Many educational experts suggest tots shouldn’t have access to screens until they’re around two years old—and even then, it’s a limited amount of time they should be sitting in front of the TV or tablet. Other experts have different ideas, though. Angela Santomero, who co-created children’s shows like Blue’s Clues, Super Why, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, and more wrote in her book that screens are beneficial for kids—in some formats, at least.
Santomero reasons that instead of feeling bad about kids’ screen usage, parents should just be smart about what they allow their tots to view and interact with. Which is all well and good for most kids, but what about those who are so intertwined with tech that it seems like they’re being raised by an iPad?
This is where it gets a bit murky. But there are a number of ways onlookers can tell whether the kiddo has a healthy relationship with tech or not—and out of the following 20, 10 or more probably mean the child spends more time with a screen than their caregivers.
20 Tries To Swipe In Real Life
Even adults have done this one: you get so into using your phone or tablet that you start trying to “swipe” things that aren’t swipable. It’s funnier when it happens with kids, though, because instead of trying to swipe on a non-touch screen computer, they tend to try it with actual books or toys. And while it’s kind of amusing, it’s one of those things that shows you how impressionable young minds are, and how quickly they learn things about their world. Of course, it can also mean that the child spends much more time with an iPad than anything else.
19 Needs A Screen To Survive
Almost all parents (unless they completely ban screens) have experienced the meltdown that comes with taking a child’s tablet away. But in some cases, kids’ attachment to their screens becomes so intense that they literally cannot do anything without multitasking on the iPad, too. From demanding an iPad to get them out of bed in the morning to using an app to brush their teeth, toddlers who are raised on iPads start to depend on them for almost everything. But at least the plus side is they’re learning to accomplish more than one thing at a time—though it’s questionable exactly what they’re “accomplishing” on the tablet at all hours.
18 Learns Their Numbers (But Nothing Else)
Toddlers often begin to repeat numbers and letters and start asking how they all fit together. But for a baby who’s been using an iPad since before he can talk, he might be picking up some extra specific skills via the tablet. Plenty of parents are familiar with this one: their tot memorizes their passcode to access the tablet, phone, or any other device parents try to secure against tiny thieves. But no matter how many times we switch up the passcode, kids who are determined are bound to crack the code again. And if you don’t change it? They’ll easily memorize it—but only those digits—to access the goods.
17 Knows What Cord To Look For
For kids these days, access to power outlets is critical no matter where they are. And we get it with teenagers because their phones are truly lifelines at that stage. But with toddlers, it’s a tell-tale sign your kiddo has been spending plenty of one-on-one time with her tablet when she recognizes which cord she needs to charge it, and even knows how to plug it all in. And while most parents don’t really want their kids playing near the power outlets, it’s kind of a benefit to them that their kiddos pick up on how to plug things in. They just need to quit stealing our chargers.
16 Has More Selfies Than Mom Or Dad
Toddler selfies are adorable, right? But what’s not so adorable is when you have fifty of them popping up in your camera roll every time you leave your phone lying around. And when your tot has an iPad of their own? You can expect hundreds—if not thousands—of delightful toddler-nose selfies, blurry snaps of the floor, ceiling, and walls, and clips of who knows what else when your toddler is using the selfie camera. The relatively good news, given the kid has unlimited access to the iPad? They probably also know how to delete said selfies to make room for more games and apps.
15 Is No Stranger To Online Shopping
Grown-ups may relish their online shopping—no lines, good discounts, shipping to your door—but little kids don’t exactly understand how it works. But for kids raised on tablets, they typically figure out how to buy things, even if they don’t understand it’s actually spending mom and dad’s money. And these days, there are actually buttons on Amazon and other online services to return things that specify you didn’t consent to ordering whatever item your kid had delivered.
Unfortunately, services like iTunes often say it’s spend at your own risk—something toddlers don’t quite grasp. The result? Potentially hundreds of dollars in apps, products, and services that you had no clue your toddler “needed.”
14 Navigates YouTube Like A Pro
Hopping on YouTube is like going down a rabbit hole for people of all ages. You click on one thing, then three hours later you’re watching funny cat videos and hilarious pranks involving kids and less-than-desirable Christmas gifts. The same happens with toddlers who are raised on iPads—except that they somehow know exactly how to follow the chain of videos to find precisely what they want to watch. If only most grown-ups had that ability. But at the same time, it’s kind of intimidating—and even worrisome—how well pre-verbal tots can figure things out, especially given their inability to read.
13 Aspires To Be A ‘Tuber, Too
By now, everyone’s seen the super-cute video of a toddler staging her own cooking show, the little girls whose parents encourage them to flex their acting muscles in home videos, and the kids whose Fortnite moves earned them internet notoriety. But thanks to those tots, kids who spend an inordinate amount of time with their tablets start to have ‘Tuber aspirations, too. Preschoolers who narrate everything they do as if they’re on TV, record their own “cooking show” videos, and demand to be in the spotlight at all times may very well have had more Apple than parental influence in their early lives.
12 Has To Have The Tablet On The Potty
Although they don’t like to admit it, most adults (and teens) use their smartphones in the bathroom. With the allure of FB and IG updates at all hours, plenty of us scroll social media and whatever else while on the pot. So although it’s disappointing, it’s not surprising that many toddlers do the same—particularly if they’ve been raised with the iPad as a bribe to use the toilet in the first place. They might require coercion to get on the toilet in the first place, but after all, you can get tablet-trained kids to sit nearly anywhere as long as they’ve got a good view of the screen.
11 Actually Has A Potty Tablet Holder
Plenty of parents have poked fun at this potty tablet holder that’s been making the rounds. But the thing is, if there wasn’t a market for it, it wouldn’t exist. Clearly, many parents actually buy these and use them to get their kids to use the potty while playing games. Sure, in some cases, it can help—especially for kids with special needs. But in general? The potty tablet holder is something that parents probably use to satiate their kids’ obsession with holding the tablet over the toilet. At least this way, you can make sure your kid’s not dunking their iPad in the toilet.
10 Memorizes Processes With Ease
Navigating a tablet isn’t always easy to do, especially for adults who are meeting the technology for the first time. So seeing a toddler fly through twenty menus with ease is actually pretty impressive. And for most kids raised with iPads, it’s a really common occurrence. Although there are plenty of negatives to handing babies and toddlers tablets, it can have some benefits for their development in terms of retention of processes and learning to memorize things. Parents of kids who are iPad-obsessed probably also notice their kids are really knowledgeable about topics the parents themselves have never explained—thank you Apple!
9 Can Snack One-Handed
Tons of kids struggle with sitting down to eat, and tons of parents are willing to try anything to get some nutrition into their kids. Which explains parents’ dependence on tablets to get their kids to the dining room table. Of course, experts tend to say that kids should focus on eating, paying attention to how they feel and how things taste. That way, they develop healthy eating habits and stop when they’re full. But kids who are raised by the iPad? They’ll eat one-handed, without spilling a drop or a crumb, and continue to play their games or watch their videos.
8 Watches Shows To Fall Asleep
Televisions used to be the great divide among parents: some swore by TV to get their kids to go to sleep at night without a fuss. Others swore off TV, following along with experts’ advice that it messes up kids’ circadian rhythms—the natural instinct to sleep when it’s dark—due to the bright, artificial light. And whichever camp you fall into, today’s technology presents even more complications for parents. Tablets don’t have to stay in one place, they offer interactive entertainment, and there’s always something age-appropriate to see. So of course, it makes sense that kids who are attached to their tablets take them to bed, too.
7 Skips Toys In Favor Of The Tablet
Every parent knows the struggle of buying toys their kids never play with. We can spend thousands of dollars on the best and newest toys, and our kids will still play with an empty paper towel tube or a handful of paperclips. For children raised by iPads though? They often don’t need any toys at all—Wi-Fi is the only entertainment requirement. These are the kids who would rather watch other kids unbox and play with toys than play with their own (why is this an epidemic?!), so why even bother stocking the shelves? And for parents who rely on the iPad to raise their kids, this is an easy choice to make.
6 Knows Songs Mom Doesn’t
Every now and then, a YouTube, video game, or social media craze gets kids all over the globe bugging out. And it seems like most recently, it was the Baby Shark song that got parents riled up, too. Of course, many parents monitor their kids’ access to the tablets, so they started hearing the song that basically never ends, thanks to its perpetual popularity among the toddler set. Other parents whose kids have their own iPads and watch whenever they want? Those parents likely don’t understand a word of what their kids are singing or saying, because they don’t get the pop culture references from endless hours of tablet time.
5 Is A Fruit Ninja Master
Fruit Ninja is one of those games that’s good for all ages and has an appeal that even gets grownups addicted. So it makes sense that kids who are always on their tablets get really good at the game—and any other game they play often. Although their skills may be impressive to those less technology inclined, most parents would prefer their kids spend time doing stuff in the real-world that improves more than just their hand-eye coordination. Then again, there are also parents who would rather their child be on a tablet 24/7 than invest time in other pursuits.
4 Gets Mad At Techie Toys
It used to be that babies and toddlers could be pacified with a tot-sized toy phone or tablet for them to drool on. Some didn’t even have batteries—just rattles or bells. These days, though, the lights and sounds of mom and dad’s phones and tablets are just too alluring. Especially for kids who are already passionate about their iPads, good luck trying to ply them with battery-powered tot versions. Even preschool-age kids might protest if you try to hand them a kiddie toy, especially if you’re trying to swap them for their Wi-Fi connected device that’s equipped with music and YouTube.
3 Learned To Text-Type Early On
No matter whether a child is a pre-reader or even pre-verbal, they can somehow still manage to get around on a table if they’ve grown up with it. And although plenty of adults are still sort of clunky when navigating on the tablet or texting with their thumbs, kids these days are different. Children who have been raised on iPads learn to text-type with both thumbs—rather than the hunting and pecking nonsense we see people doing when they’re new to smartphones or even keyboards. It’s actually almost mesmerizing to watch, because kids intuitively know where to tap, swipe, and click—but in a baby, that’s not exactly a preferable skillset to aim for.
2 Can’t Be Tricked By Knockoffs
We mentioned those “techie toys” that are created for children but mimic grown ups’ versions. And even the youngest baby will drop their piece of plastic that’s masquerading as a phone in order to gnaw on mom or dad’s iPhone. But there are also more mature versions of tablets which are intended for kids—but for a kid who’s literally been raised by an iPad, there’s likely no fooling them when it comes to knockoffs. Not only can truly techie kids tell the difference between a real iPad and some knockoff tablet that was cheaper online, but they’ll be vocal in protesting against using the fake.
1 Skips Naps For Screens
From the moment most babies are born, parents can kiss sleep goodbye. And while giving our kids tech devices is a means of coping when we need a nap but they don’t, studies have shown that kids who play on tablets too much tend to sleep less. This starts with babies but applies to toddlers and older kids too—meaning you might be making things worse by handing your tot a tablet when you need a rest. It’s roughly the same principle as kids falling to sleep (or not) with screens: the artificial light messes with their bodies’ responses to sleep and even nighttime. But then again, if they’re being raised by the tablet, these kids aren’t going to be “normal” in many ways, anyway—including regarding their sleep habits.