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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Sunday, May 19, 2024

Tok the Talk: The epidemic of iPad kids

Millennials are being criticized for their children’s technology addictions, but how much blame do they deserve?

Tok the Talk Column Graphic

Graphic by Molly Sullivan

IPad kids have become somewhat of an internet meme — the children who can’t seem to go a few hours without gluing their eyes to a screen have become the latest laughingstock of the internet. However, beyond the comical nature of watching a child pull out Nickelodeon at a fancy dinner, there is a fundamental question to be raised: What impact has technology had on child development?

IPad kids, who mainly fall into Generation Alpha, have primarily been raised by millennial parents. In November 2023, TikTok user Gabe Escobar called out several of these kids, noting that parents have “been shoving media and screens in these kids’ faces since birth.” He continues, theorizing that these children likely struggle with reading and creative thinking. He is not the only one raising concerns — several educators on the app have been complaining that kids are struggling to read and write at the expected level.

Interestingly, prior to this epidemic of iPad kids, millennials were receiving praise for their more progressive modes of parenting and desires to break generational cycles; notably, many millennial fathers have been more involved than in previous generations. Gentle parenting,” a parenting philosophy that maximizes adult empathy, has exploded online, with many millennials expressing a desire to break the cycle of trauma present in their childhood. Several of these parents were praised for their kinder approaches to children.

However, the tides have turned, and now many of these parents are being criticized for misinterpreting gentle parenting as “permissive parenting” — a warm style of parenting that implements very few boundaries and lacks discipline. Though gentle parenting, too, is warm in nature, it is also disciplined in a way permissive parenting is not. Some theorize that the lack of discipline present in millennial parents stems from laziness, while others believe it is rooted in a fear of the child. Either way, these criticisms have quickly spiraled out of control, and now Gen Alpha kids are being bashed online for their lack of literacy. Ultimately, this brings up a larger question: Are millennials just bad parents?

Arguably, the cards have been stacked against Gen Alpha; any generation raised in such a pervasive culture of technology would struggle with balance. Especially for children who grew up in the crux of the pandemic and attended school through a laptop, screen time is difficult to monitor. In fact, what is now dubbed “The Covid Effect” resulted in a nearly doubled screen time during March and April 2020 compared to the previous year, marking the onset of the pandemic. Children under 10 were spending hours on Fortnite, TikTok and Snapchat. Roblox, popular with kids ages 9–12, had 31 million users a day during the first half of 2020. In an era with such a lack of human interaction, kids naturally turned to social media.

Such immediate access to technology is perhaps the reason that many of these children lack creativity; imagination stems from boredom. When children turn to technology as a cure for their boredom, their ability to create and imagine is hindered, instead replaced with mindless internet scrolling. 

It’s easy to critique millennial parents for their misgivings and laugh at their Roblox-obsessed children. However, as technology continues to develop, there is a chance that the epidemic of iPad kids will only get worse. As Gen Z approaches parenting age, there are several lessons to be learned. Most notable is this: Maybe children really should just pick up a book instead.