After doing some research to on various tablets and selecting a set that made the most sense, our kids now own Kindles (actually purchased as Christmas gift by my parents). We are still aware that reading actual books with the kids and playing outside and building and creating are all better activities for our family than playing on electronic devices. We have read various articles on both sides of the issue and have discussed the points they raise. We came to the conclusion that raising our kids in a healthy manner involves an exposure to variety of experiences in moderation, including electronics.
Leading up to this choice we have seen Michael and Sophie take a stronger interest in our phones and computers over the last year or so. At their child care center they have a classroom tablet on which they practice writing letters and watch short videos as part of different lessons. We have downloaded similar apps and some that are mostly for fun, like a Lightning McQueen racing game, and have found our phones to be pretty harmless and admittedly convenient distractions at times. We have rules for ourselves (no phones at the table, for example) and believe with similar limits and guidance, these electronics will be useful tools for our kids.
The tablets we chose are the Kindle Fire Kids Edition which means they include kid-proof cases, a two-year worry free plan, and thousands of kids' books, games, apps, and videos already loaded as part of one year of Freetime Unlimited. Of course "kid appropriate" is a pretty subjective concept, and our rules for the tablets include letting us know what they are doing on their tablets and asking to change apps. Daniel Tiger? Sure, Buddy. Spongebob? Pick another, Sweetheart.
The Kindles also have parental controls including time limits for Freetime. Right now Michael and Sophie get 30 minutes of tablet time a day, and only 15 minutes of that can be videos. When that time is up, or when 6:30 PM rolls around, the Kindles lock them out. The time limits are working out pretty well with minor frustration for the kids, which I believe is an important part of the learning experience. We haven't had the Kindles long enough to say that we are certainly thrilled with them, but I believe we will be.
Now, I must get off this laptop. Better set a good example!