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No nanny? No problem! Modern-day parents are increasingly employing tablets to entertain, teach, and occupy their children, according to survey data gathered by analytics firm Nielsen.

Seven out of 10 children under 12 (70 percent), in tablet-owning households used a tablet during the fourth quarter of 2011. The figure represents a nine percent increase from the third quarter, Nielsen found.

The most popular activity among young children is far and away playing games. More than three-quarters of kids, or 77 percent, are playing downloaded games. Thankfully, 57 percent of parents also indicated that their growing babes are using educational applications.

Here’s something fun: The tablet also seems to help parents with the often headache-inducing task of keeping kids quiet and occupied while traveling or dining out. Fifty-five percent of parents indicated that their children used tablets for entertainment while traveling, and 41 percent of parents said the tablet served as a pleasant distraction for their kids at restaurants.

Of course, there’s bound to be a subset of the parental community that frowns upon on the tablet’s growing role in (and out of) the household. Is a child frequently entertained by an iPad or similar device less likely to socialize or play nice with other kids on the playground? Will these young, impressionable minds opt for technology over interpersonal communication later in life? All are great questions with unknown answers.

For now, the convenience of placing a tablet in front of a child is one too tempting for a growing percentage of parents to pass up. And the tablet just might be a viable and cheaper alternative to a babysitter or full-time nanny, so long as you don’t expect it to clean up after your kids.

Photo credit: Wayan Vota/Flickr

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