iPads: More Than Just Toys For the Rich, But Not Fully Utilized Yet

Technology revolutionizes how people think and speak, but are costs so high that the revolution is only for the rich?  

I’m sure that’s how the early versions of cell phones were perceived, and now they’re fairly prevalent amongst all walks of life. While the iPad is catered to deliver entertainment at your fingertips, the iPad and its Netbook comrades are expanding the utility of latest technology through it’s mobility and ease of use, and the improvements to its design will eventually make this device a necessity compared to using a smartphone, a laptop, or a desktop computer.

Modern smartphones are hand-held portals to the world, but they’re also communication devices. Your phone is your calling card, so it stands that another option is needed for a hand-held portal to the world. Smartphones come equipped with speedy connections to networks, crisp touch-screen displays, and interact with plenty of fun games or time-wasting apps. Sometimes it’s hard to legitimately state that smartphones aren’t toys, that they are an important resource for communication.  

It is necessary to have something that is separate from the cell phone category but can do all of the fun things you’d expect from modern gadgets like iPhones and Android phones. iPads are powerful tools for their mobility (no wires), and the applications provided. College students can use it as an e-reader, saving on costs for new books.  Kids can access educational materials, too — Angry Birds Star Wars is educational, right? In all seriousness, iPads and tablets make it easy for children to develop skills in comprehension as they are an interactive and fun way to learn.

If anything, iPads are toys for babies and children of rich people. Whenever I’m on a plane, almost all the kiddos have one of these in their laps. And they are mainly wealthy babies. Their utility starts to diminish when you see that increased “screen time,” be it TV or iPads, correlate with increased obesity and poor sleep habits in children, which means that iPads may not only be toys but unhealthy toys.

What makes iPads useful is the ability to connect to a good wireless internet source, too.  The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 dedicated a lot of federal resources to focus on the “digital divide” and increasing capacity for broadband for communities in need.  It is arguable that we are anywhere near where we need to be; broadband providers are less competitive (meaning higher costs in a capitalist model) and US policy for broadband may be too hands-off, as evidenced in the lawsuit where Comcast declared the FCC “had no authority” to regulate their business practices.  

However, broadband access is better than it ever has been (just look at the National Broadband Map and see) and the current administration and policy-makers understand that progress in this area of our economy has untold benefits.

We are in a in-between point as far as having superior technology to improve lives and having the resources to let these improvements be far-reaching. Thinking of cell phones, even the fastest, most cutting-edge phone won't work in areas devoid of network availability.  

iPads are more than just toys for rich people, but until our society is able to support a competitive broadband infrastructure and implement a lifestyle of moderation for young children and their screen time, tablets like the iPad will still be a source of entertainment before it becomes a necessary tool.

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Erin Yepis

Erin Yepis is a reader, writer and purveyor of all things current. Erin grew up in Gainesville, FL, a small, liberal college town with alligators. Currently, she lives and works in Denver, Colorado at the Open Media Foundation, a non-profit organization located seeking to put the power of the media in the hands of the people. She loves to read Tumblr.

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