Experts Concerned About The Negative Impact of Tablets on Young Children

December 26, 2013 - GamePolitics Staff

While tablets seem to be popular with very young children, some pediatricians and other health experts are expressing concerns that these devices may be interfering with early childhood development and may even lead to some children developing attention problems. Of course, the research on all of this is still mostly incomplete because the iPad and other popular devices have not been out long enough to determine what the long-term effects of usage among children really are.

Experts also point out that there is no evidence that the devices that some parents believe are educational actually offer any educational or developmental benefits for babies and toddlers. At the same time, they think all this extra screen time may take away from activities that do promote brain development.

Dr. Dimitri Christakis, a pediatrician at Seattle Children’s Hospital, admits that, since the iPad and similar devices have only been on the market for a little over three years, tablet-related research is still in its infancy.

Christakis also notes that educational games and apps may have some value if they engage a child and prompt them to interact with the device, but also cautioned that if all children do is watch videos on their tablets, then it’s just like watching TV.

He also cautions that parents need to make sure that tablet time is not replacing more important activities such as sleeping, reading or interacting with adults.

"The single most important thing for children is time with parents and caregivers," he says. "Nothing is more important in terms of social development. If time with the tablet comes at the expense of that, that’s not good."

Dr. Rahil Briggs, a pediatric psychologist at New York’s Montefiore Medical Center, believes tablet usage needs to be limited for the youngest of children, because too much screen time can slow language development. For older children, Briggs says too much tablet use can slow social development.

But the jury is still out on the positive and negative influence of tablet usage, and some experts believe that the good doctors are wrong.

Jill Buban, dean of the School of Education at Post University in Waterbury Conn., says the more children understand about technology before they start school, the more comfortable they’ll feel when they step into a classroom for the very first time. She does think that parents need to monitor and limit the amount of time their children spending using these devices, though.

"There’s so much media out there and so much marketing," she says. "It’s all about smart choices and research, whether it’s an app on a tablet or a TV show."

Susan Linn, director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, says parents should be wary of any TV show or app that touts educational benefits for babies or toddlers because the research on that topic just isn't there to support it.

"Babies and young children are spending huge amounts of time with screen media when really what they need is hands-on creative play, active time and face-to face time with the people that love them," Linn said.

Linn’s group is best known for taking on the educational claims made by the “Baby Einstein” videos that eventually led to consumer refunds. They are currently urging the Federal Trade Commission to examine the marketing practices of certain apps and games geared toward babies.

"The best toys are the ones that just lie there until the child transforms them," Linn said pointing to blocks and stuffed animals as examples. "If all children do is push a button, that’s not the kind of play that promotes learning."

Source: Time


Comments

Re: Experts Concerned about The Negative Impact of Tablets ...

if they expect children in the USA to just instantly run outside and start playing harmlessly with a stick and some sort of hoop or with jacks or some childs toy from the '40s or '50s they are out of their minds. technology is here to stay. love it or leave, but stay out of my way in respect to how i decide to educate my children and what i decide to educate them with.

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Re: Experts Concerned about The Negative Impact of Tablets ...

My only real issue here was this quote

"The single most important thing for children is time with parents and caregivers,"

I would disagree, and say that socializing with other children, is more important than the child's parents/guardians. It fosters more self confidence and self reliance in a public setting.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying a child should not spend time with their parents, I'm just saying between the two, the one that is likely to be better in a child's social development, is peers.

 

As for everything else in the article, as they stated, the research is still just getting off the ground (if that), so there is nothing to support claims that it is good or bad. But I will say this, they used to say radio (then tv later on) rotted a child's brain back in the golden age of radio. And from what I can tell it was because they were just so fascinated with the broadcasts. But, atleast in my personal experience growing up with cassettes of old radio recordings (from Sherlock, to Dick Tracy, to Gun Smoke, to Abbot and Costello, to many others), Media in general, can foster imagination and creativity.

Look at all the webcomic artists out there, many of them were inspired by DC, Marvel, Antarctic Press, Archie, and many other comic producers. Or cartoons on Youtube and Newgrounds, they had their inspirations as well from other sources.

Of course, this boils down to what is consumed on those tablets. Tablets are nothing more than a access point to the media, much like the radio receiver and tuner were. So it's a matter of quality or subject matter that matters. On TV, Dora the Explorer is probably more inspirational and creativily engaging than something like... The Jersey Shore.

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Re: Experts Concerned about The Negative Impact of Tablets ...

 Tablets are often used for reading, so that kind of moots the concept of replacing it. But to the rest, at least its not another attempt to blow off some bogus claim that incomplete research has once again "proven" something it hasn't scratched.

Sounds like theres someone out there with actual heads on their shoulders. I like this one.

Exception being the briggs one there.. She has nothing to support that claim, and language development won't be hindered given it'd need to be understood for the content to be utilized. Now if she's referring to SPOKEN language, I may see a point. As social interaction alone would increase that. But there are also these functions called "video chat". Things like Skype and Facetime that would accommodate for it in some form to a limited extent. Also voice recognition based experiences could be utilized to work with it, and that tech has come a LONG way since its introduction some what, almost 35+ years ago now?

I'm not saying it should, or could fully. I doubt that too, but the options exist. These individuals seem to be pointing to strictly video based content. Many are also interactive and text based.

And given the place technology has in regards to social growth these days, not having enough knowledge of it could actually cause problems in some regards (people can be rather mean to someone who is "behind" when it comes to the tech they're using/know how to use).

I'm wondering what their exposure level is to modern tablet and computer tech.

 
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