At five, Ella's an iPad whiz

CHARLEY MANN
Last updated 05:00 19/01/2013
Ella Paget
TECH WHIZZ: Five-year-old Ella Paget knows her way around an ipad or ipod.

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Are you more technology-savvy than a 5-year-old? Ella Paget may make you think twice.

Ella, who started Papanui Primary School last year, is a whiz on her iPad. Better than her mum and dad.

She can download her own apps and change the settings, and using an iPad at school is definitely more fun than pen and paper, she says.

Ella is at the forefront of a new generation of youngsters for whom using a tablet for work and play is second nature, but are, some experts argue, putting their mental health at risk.

At school Ella's class play maths games, use drawing apps and learn how to use the different settings.

At home she has her own iPod which her parents, Lara Edwards and Dan Paget, bought for her. Edwards lets Ella download some apps and will let her use the internet if she or Paget are supervising.

"She mainly has games and learning games on her iPod," Edwards said. "She knows how to use it better than I do."

Her favourite apps include the worldwide phenomenon Angry Birds, a maths game and Talking Tom the Cat and Talking Ben the Dog - apps that let kids vent their destructive side, punching Tom the cat until he falls over and blowing Ben the dog up with a science experiment.

Edwards said the iPod was great on long journeys or for short periods at home in the evening, but she ensured Ella did not spend hours glued to the screen.

Christchurch academics and teachers say children should be exposed to such technology, but only in small doses.

Hornby and University of Canterbury marketing expert Ekant Veer cautioned that child ren had to learn how to balance the cyber world with the real one.

Veer said studies on the topic had shown children who were exposed to too much technology had a decreased attention span. If they normally accessed information at a phenomenal speed, the ability to sit quietly and read a book was "hugely impacted".

Like all good things in life, the answer lay in balance, Veer said. "It is about learning to balance the two realities, and our children will become masters of this."

Children at Casa dei Bambini, a Montessori preschool, regularly use the centre's iPad alongside practical lessons.

Administrator Kathleen Gisho said children particularly liked to flick through photo slideshows with teachers and peers.

"We've found that they like the slide shows. They will bring the iPad to a teacher and they will talk about the photos."

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Raewyn Penman, education services manager at Kidsfirst Kindergartens, said some of Kidsfirst's Christchurch centres had iPads and all teachers had laptops that they used with the children.

Like Casa dei Bambini, children were not allowed to browse the internet unless they were using the iPad with a teacher.

"We use technology to complement education programmes," she said.

Parents who feared their offspring would become surgically attached to a tablet could take heart, Penman said. "If people think children are glued to technology all day, they are not, they are just as interested in climbing, running, jumping and exploring."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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