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How to use your iPad for family multitasking

by Alex in | | | |

Yesterday’s blog post about the merits of buying an iPad provoked some questions about overconsumption, as well as a shout-out from a fellow sofa commuter. In the tug-of-war between buying a device that is sofa optimized, versus buying one less thing because we already have eighteen million devices, sofa optimization won out.

I tried to justify that on the grounds that the iPad could replace a whole bunch of other devices — in other words, displacing consumption — but the truth is that we’re fitting  it into our lives alongside all the other gadgetry. Here’s what that looks like on a Saturday morning at our house:

Our family, multitasking
Saturdays with iPads
Illustration by Rob Cottingham


1. In our media cabinet

  • TV connected to Wii, playing Wii Sports Bowling.
  • Mac Mini connected to external speakers, playing music via iTunes.
  • PVR recording morning kids’ shows on PBS, CBC to watch later.
  • PlayStation downloading latest system updates so we don’t have to wait for it when we want to play.

2. Little Sweetie, age 6½

  • Using Wii remote to play Wii Sports Bowling (with volume on low).
  • Using iPhone to take a snapshot of the bowling lane after she gets a strike.

3. Little Peanut, age 3¾

  • Using Wii remote to play Wii Sports Bowling with his sister.
  • Using Alex’s iPad to play Cogs when it’s his sister’s turn to bowl.

4. Rob

  • Drawing a cartoon on Wacom tablet connected to MacBook Pro that livestreams his drawing process.
  • Using Safari on his iPad to look at a reference photo that shows the pose he’s drawing.
  • Using Tweetdeck on his iPhone to monitor Twitter.

5. Alex

  • Using hackintosh netbook to control iTunes on the Mac Mini via screen sharing so we don’t interrupt the kids’ Wii game.
  • Using MacBook Pro to move mail from one Gmail account to another in Mail.app.
  • Using Halo headset with iPhone, catching up with a friend.

OK, even we’re not quite this extreme. But it’s not atypical for us to be running more screens than people at any given moment.

And why not? A recent study from the Kaiser Family Foundation reported that today’s kids fit almost 11 hours per day of media use into just 7.5 hours of actual screen time.

You can’t get to numbers like that by using one device at a time: it’s all about multi-tasking. So if we can get our kids using 3 or 4 devices at once, they’ll be able to pack their full RDA of 11 hours of media into a couple of hours of overstimulation.

Thanks to the iPad, we’re well on our way. Now all we need is a Ritalin app.

First posted on April 13,2010
  • Anne

    That’s a busy Saturday morning, although I think I’d rather take the kids bowling than simulate it on the TV … and you give your 3 year old an iPad to play with? WOW!

  • Anne

    That’s a busy Saturday morning, although I think I’d rather take the kids bowling than simulate it on the TV … and you give your 3 year old an iPad to play with? WOW!

  • Ruela

    Makes me think of the multiple screens and listening devices in Fahrenheit 451 right before his wife flips out and ODs on pills… Creepy. 

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