MARIETTA - Five-year-old Sophie Hutchinson certainly knows her way around the iPad.
Quick to display her prowess with one of the hottest technological gadgets, Hutchinson has everything from math games to painting down pat.
And she's not the only youngster like that.
Photo by Kevin Pierson
Sophie Hutchinson, 5, of Marietta, displays her skill with an iPad at the Betsey Mills Club. More and more young children are becoming proficient in the use of technology, like iPads and smartphones.
Technology like the iPad is becoming more and more prevalent among children as young as toddlers, and it's altering the educational outlook for their generation.
"It's changing the way young children think. They're more willing to attempt new things than an adult would be with technology," said Dottie Erb, professor and chair of the education department at Marietta College.
Children are adept at manipulating technology like the iPad, which Hutchinson proudly showed to classmates at the Betsey Mills Club Wednesday morning.
A Look at Tablet Usage for Children
Seven out of 10 children under the age of 12 in tablet-owning households use the tablet.
77 percent of adults in a Nielsen survey said their children play games on their tablets.
57 percent of adults in the survey said their children use them for educational apps.
55 percent of adults report their children use tablets for entertainment while traveling.
41 percent of adults said their children use tablets for entertainment purposes in restaurants.
15 percent of children use the tablet for communication with family and friends.
Source: Nielsen Company consumer research
"You have to win levels and the gorilla goes to (the banana) and then you have to tap and do what it says," Hutchinson said, explaining one of the games she was displaying Wednesday.
A recent survey by the Nielsen Company found that seven out of every 10 children under the age of 12 in tablet-owning households will use the tablet.
That has some people questioning if the iPad is too much of a good thing but Erb disagreed.
"The apps and the software that are available, from an educational standpoint, there are excellent resources," Erb said.
Marietta College uses the iPad in its teacher education program, which has about 200 students.
For the past two years the college students have been using the iPad with young children with impressive results, said Erb. She noted the department is seeing particular success with children that have various learning and physical disabilities such as autism, attention deficit or reading difficulties.
"We're really getting some good results with that work," Erb said.
The iPad is also fun, which makes it more appealing for children and something they're less likely to put down as they might a traditional book.
"I think that's the whole point, having fun while you learn. You can't beat that," said parent Darcy Delancey, of Beverly, who has children ages 4, 6, and 8 who use an iPad.
When they're having fun, children tend to do more work, and Hutchinson proved the point as she was surrounded by classmates while playing a "paint and learn" app designed to help artistic skills.
"I play all of them a lot," Hutchinson said.
Delancey said her childrens' favorite is the game Angry Birds, but her youngest enjoys putting puzzles together and has now learned her alphabet and how to spell her name and recognize shapes from using the iPad.
The use of the iPad is something that Erb would like to see more schools employ, as the tablet literally can access thousands of books and learning materials.
"It's basically like having a library in one little piece of hardware," Erb said.
The use of the iPad in schools is part of why Delancey allows her children to use her tablet essentially every night.
"They like playing the games on there. I heard the school systems are going to be using them in a couple years, so I wanted them to get used to it," Delancey said.
Belpre City Schools already have iPads in the classroom, with more than 100 of the devices at Belpre Elementary School.
Fourth-grade teacher Christy Boothby regularly uses the tablet, and even had her students email superintendent Tony Dunn after completing a multiplication project to prove their math skills.
"They not only had the practice of doing their multiplication facts, they were able to email their superintendent and get a response back that morning," Dunn said.
Dunn said Belpre has had great success with the iPads, in part because they have captured the attention of students the way calculators did in the 1980s.
"The better we can engage kids in the classroom the more they're going to learn. The iPads are very engaging for kids at this point," Dunn said.
Erb's grandson is another iPad fanatic, having displayed considerable skills with the tablet. Now he even tests out other books to see if he can interact with them the same way.
"My 2-year-old grandson, he always tests out books to see if he can push on anything. He thinks my flat screen TV is a large iPad," Erb said.
While there are more benefits to young children using iPads and other technology, experts do advise setting limits.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children watch no more than one or two hours of television each day, and suggests the same for things like the iPad.
In the Nielsen survey, 55 percent of the adults surveyed said their children use the tablets for entertainment while traveling to avoid the "are we there yet" query and 41 percent said their kids use it as entertainment in restaurants.
An iPad is just another tool to help the learning process, Erb said, but it can have tremendous impact on the development of a child's mind.
"It's a tool. It's no different than any other tool. You have to have a purpose for using it," Erb said. "It's not going to replace teachers. It's not going to replace a parent or an interested adult."