Ipad, considered by many parents as a good pre-education tool for their children, needs to be re-examined after a local expert warned about its social and development consequences.
About 80 percent of children are obsessed with iPads - playing games on them, surfing the Internet and even shopping on China's biggest e-commerce website taobao.com, according to Cao Jin, a professor with the Journalism School at Shanghai's Fudan University.
"iPad has become the most wanted gift on a child's birthday and a yardstick for children to measure if their "parents love them," Cao said.
Cao interviewed 100 children and their parents at two local kindergartens in Yangpu District. The survey found 42.6 percent of parents bought the iPads for themselves. Half of them bought it for use for themselves and their children.
Only 7.2 percent of parents bought the iPads strictly for their children.
Among parents who bought iPads for themselves, 72.8 percent of them wanted to catch up with the latest fashion and had a strong interest in the latest technology.
Those who bought it for their children, however, see iPads as an early education tool with many learning applications and puzzle games that supposedly help children to enrich their knowledge, develop innovation and intelligence while adding fun to their lives as well, the survey showed.
"More than half of the parents think iPad has a bigger positive impact on children, rather than the negative side, like it could result in shortsightedness or the children could get addicted to video games," Cao said.
Cao said a worrying situation was that children did not want to give up the iPads easily.
"Not only adults but also young children are taking iPad, a metal-coated machine as their closest friend. They cannot sleep without it," said Cao.
During the survey, Cao also found that families have become quieter. "Dad was playing computer games; mom was watching American soap drama while the kid was sliding his or her fingers on the screen. No one talks to others anymore," Cao said.
Cao said iPad intruded into the family life without a war while an intangible wall was being built silently between the kids and their parents.
"Preschoolers showed great interest in iPad or similar products. From my survey, more than 90 percent of children said they liked iPad," Cao said.
iPad has become the new babysitter after TV but the attachment to it may not be healthy for a child's growth. The survey showed nearly 80 percent of children reacted emotionally after their iPads were taken away by their parents.
Parent's supervision did not work all the time as children had learnt to bargain for more time to play. The survey found a third of the children used iPad between 30 minutes to an hour and 64.4 percent played for 10 to 30 minutes. Two six-year-old girls had even learnt to shop on taobao.com, while another four-year-old used iPad to watch animation, play Fruit Ninja or download other games.