Do iPads belong in a library?

How much screen time kids get is among the top hot-button issues in the parenting and education worlds. I have thoughts about screen time (so many thoughts!) but I’ll save those for another post. Today, I’m really curious to know your thoughts about computers and iPads in libraries, specifically in the children’s section.

We are fortunate to live down the block from a wonderful library. The children’s section is large with two huge wooden trains that the kids can climb in and play on; there is a spacious area with blocks and other quiet toys, and obviously there are tons of books. There is also a large bank of computers, which recently was replaced mostly with iPads mounted to the table. The iPads are equipped with different children’s games and apps. When Nolan was younger and would ask to play on the computers or iPads, my standard response was, “That’s not what we come to the library for.” That seemed to satisfy him and he would happily play with something else and look for books. Now that’s he’s four and a half…it’s not enough.

My stock answer isn’t cutting it anymore because he doesn’t use one at home either. I know I’m fighting off the inevitable, but we have thus far kept iPads and computers out of the mix for him. It’s not that I think they’re evil, but I know what’s coming down the pike. Schools are being outfitted with iPads and Chromebooks, and many districts have one-to-one programs where the kids are in front a screen most of the day. I wish I were exaggerating.

Yesterday we visited the library and as I poked around in the Thanksgiving section, I could hear him a few aisles away talking to another child and chatting with a librarian. Then it was quiet for a minute or two and I headed over to find him. Where was he? Furiously tapping away on an iPad, trying to figure out a Cat in the Hat game. I let him play for a minute or two and then said, “Ok, let’s go now.” Fast forward a few minutes and several persistent directives later and he is now whining while angrily stomping behind me and has lost the privilege of going to the movie section to pick out a DVD. He would not pry himself away from that damn iPad.

So my question is this, why are there iPads and computers in the children’s section? In a culture where screens are EVERYWHERE, isn’t the library a place we can go to avoid them?  I would love to know your thoughts on this! Do you think libraries are just keeping up with the times and trying to bring kids in? Should libraries be screen free? Is playing a game on an iPad the same as playing with blocks? Please leave a comment below!

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