Dad’s viral TikTok shows the result of giving kids ‘books instead of iPads’

There’s been a lot of debate over the years about screentime for kids: How much of it is OK? Does it hurt their development? Should kids under a certain age be allowed to use phones and iPads at all? One thing that’s proven, however, is that it’s really beneficial to try to get kids reading: Read to them when they’re young, encourage them to read books as they learn how, and try to instill a love of reading in them as they grow up. One dad’s viral TikTok illustrates that — and has ignited the screen time debate in a big way.

Dad Armando Hart posted a video of his 10-year-old son Raya, riding in the car with his head absolutely buried in a novel.

Over the video, Hart wrote, “Give them books instead of phones when they’re little and this is the result.” In the caption, he added, “We’re so blessed with our son Raya. I think he’s read more books than I have.”

In an interview with Newsweek, Hart opened up more about the screen time philosophy he and his wife adopted as Raya was growing up.

“Prioritizing my son’s reading over phone use was a natural decision for us,” he said. “My wife and I firmly believe in the power of literature to expand the mind and nurture creativity.”

They started with reading to Raya every night before bed, hoping it would help “instill a love for books.”

“It was all about leading by example and creating a nurturing environment where reading was celebrated,” Hart said. “We made sure to provide him with a wide range of books that matched his interests and encouraged him to explore different genres.”

Still, though, Hart acknowledges that in the digital age, balance is necessary. Raya does have access to technology, he said, like an iPad he uses for art.

“It’s all about finding that equilibrium between technology and more traditional forms of entertainment,” he said. “It’s essential for parents to strike a balance, promoting reading and other offline activities alongside responsible use of technology.”

That’s something experts agree with. Dr. Norline Wild, assistant professor of early childhood education at Niagara University, told Newsweek, “Books are powerful, and time spent reading and exploring books is essential to cognitive and social emotional development. However, screen time has a place and purpose.”

She continued, “It could itself involve reading, connecting with friends and family, researching an interesting topic, or completing an assignment. Caregivers need to be intentional in their own behavior and in the expectations they set for children.”

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