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Blog: Tech versus toys for children

Toddler playing with a tablet computerAre parents using smartphones and tablets as digital dummies? Father-of-one Chad Thomas asks: Should parents curtail children's use of tech in favour of toys?

Increasingly, my two-year-old daughter, Lexie, would rather entertain herself on my tablet than play with her dolls or other toys.

And when I see her tapping away on my tablet, I admit to feeling a certain amount of unease.

I wonder if I should encourage her to play with her toys, as this is much more active and uses her imagination - in a way that zombie-like swiping at a screen surely cannot.

Tech can teach

But then I wonder if I'm being too old-fashioned. After all, computers – which are essentially what tablets and smartphones are – do have their benefits.

Lexie has picked things up using my tablet that I simply thought she was too young to understand.

It makes me laugh, but also very proud, when she names colours like aquamarine, magenta and beige, which she has picked up using the tablet.

And her numerical skills are even more impressive when she counts beyond 20 – something that we have taught her but she has also developed via online games.

I know I'm not the only parent facing the tech versus toys dilemma.

Back to basics

Despite the many benefits our gadgets have to offer, I can understand why some parents are reluctant to introduce their children to technology and would rather stick with the more traditional toys.

While sat in a doctor's waiting room recently, I was refreshingly surprised to see a young girl playing with some wooden blocks, instead of her mum's smartphone.

The fact that I even noticed the child was playing with toys instead of tech shows how increasingly common it is to see children using gadgets.

My wife and I have now decided to reduce the time Lexie can spend on the tablet as we feel she should take part in some more practical activities instead.

Children's apps

But whether your child wants to be a computer whizz-kid or not, toys have never been so advanced and educational.

And there are a number of children's apps available today.

Even when your child is tapping away online, as a parent you can still spend quality time with them.

When my daughter is playing on the tablet my wife and I make an effort to sit with her and get involved with what she is doing.

At what age should a child have a smartphone?

However, I must admit that I shuddered when I heard, through friends, of a five-year-old with a new, top-notch smartphone.

I can understand the pressure on parents though to make sure their children have the latest gadgets - for their learning and to keep up with the crowd.

But for me this seems a step too far.

I can't imagine giving my five-year-old a smartphone. But then again, in a few years, this may well be the norm.

As a parent, I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

What do you think?

Tech versus toys for children: Which is best?

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Chad Thomas

Chad Thomas

Chad Thomas has worked at Confused.com for three years so there's not much about insurance he doesn't know! He is also a father, so financial education is a subject of particular interest to him.

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