iPads or iBads?

At what age, if any, do iPads hurt more than help?

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pen ink drawing by Rachel Tian

Is it really necessary for a six-year-old, who can barely keep track of where to put his or her pencils, to carry around a highly developed piece of technology in place of the occasional paperwork?

Rachel Tian, Staff Writer

In a growing age of advanced technology, many education systems have made the decision to incorporate more easily accessible devices for use by both teachers and students. In the 2015-2016 school year, the North Allegheny School District began “Focus 2020”, a journey of providing personal technological devices to every student in the district. Middle schoolers received iPads, while high schoolers received laptops.

With the passage of four whole school years, all kids in grades one through eight now possess an iPad.  Let that sink in for a moment.

Elementary school teaching methods have taken a new direction. Homework is now posted on the school website daily, whereas students used to record everything in handwritten assignment books — and we all know how easy it is for kids to forget to write assignments down.

Textbooks and homework documents are now available digitally; the students no longer have to haul around heavy papers and packets for every single subject every night, wasting less paper and helping the environment.

Is it really necessary for a six-year-old, who can barely keep track of where to put his or her pencils, to carry around a highly developed piece of technology in place of the occasional paperwork?”

However, is it really necessary for a six-year-old, who can barely keep track of where to put his or her pencils, to carry around a highly developed piece of technology in place of the occasional paperwork? It is understandable that children should grow accustomed to the developing world around them, but how young is too young? To me, six years old is way too early.

I was once a first-grader. I know how easily distracted kids can be and how incredibly fast they catch on to things. With the added bonus of owning a personal iPad, first graders are quick to secretly download “Cool Math Games” or other apps the digital store allows. Instead of focusing on the assignments provided to them, these students blow off their work time by playing random games and fooling around on the iPads.

This drastic technological change was unfortunately evident at the Franklin Elementary homework club where I tutored for three years. The first year I tutored, the district had not issued iPads to most elementary students yet. During that time, the younger students obeyed my directions on approaching their homework. Although they got distracted at times, there was not anything more interesting, like a personal device, to steer them in an obnoxious direction. They often reverted to their tasks without much complaint.

Fast forward to the past 2018-2019 school year. The entire school was issued iPads at this point. I remember sternly speaking to a six-year-old to pull out his vocabulary words online and recite them to me. Instead, he insulted me, saying that I was wasting his time. He pulled out his iPad and started airdropping photos to his friends nearby, giggling and yelling across the room.

At another tutoring session, a little boy refused to pull up his assignment board online when I asked him to do so. Five minutes later he pulled up Google and asked, “How do you spell Prodigy? Like the game?” These children have the audacity to completely disregard directions and ask us, the tutors, how to spell a game I specifically told them not to play. This brings up another issue: autocorrect and the harmful effects it brings to student’s spelling skills.

Allowing young students to experience the amazing technological developments of our generation is completely understandable, but it does become questionable when these immature children begin to abuse their privileges? Is it appropriate to reconsider these actions when kids are becoming ruder and less appreciative of their surroundings as a result of the iPads? This may harm their educational and personal development in the long run.

iPads are among the most ingenious inventions of the century, no doubt about it. The school should take advantage of the privileges they bring, but it may be worth reconsidering when these privileges are abused.