The use of tablets like the iPad has increased in popularity among young children. Doctors, however, are not sure about the effects that such devices have on toddlers. With many parents allowing their children to use electronics there is a need to some guidelines. Until extensive research is done on the matter the American Academy of Pediatrics has settled on a few guidelines for parents to consider.
EVANSTON, Ill. – With tablets at the top of most wishing lists a new tech-savvy generation of toddlers is making parents and doctors consider the implications that such devices can have on children development.
Dr. Ari Brown, spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), said iPads are still a novelty even for pediatricians. There is currently no specific research on the effects of tablets on children.
The AAP, however, has published a list of guidelines for parents to consider. These include limiting the amount of time that kids spend staring at a flat screen and choosing apps that promote a learning environment.
“You have to decide if your child is ready and what your child will get out of it,” Brown said.
Even though the use of tablets by kids presents a struggle for parents, they are known territory for their little ones.
“The iPad, it is something young kids tend to understand,” said Benjamin McDowell, founder at Pocketglow Inc. the creator of “Playwords” an app that teaches children how to read.
“You put an iPad in front of a two year old, a three year old, and they get it,” he said.
Michelle Reeves, mother of three, agrees with McDowell. She has grown accustomed to technology she said so she is comfortable with her children using it.
An iPad is able to teach children better than other toys, she added. It is the repetitious nature of apps which surpasses other games. Her children are able to play over and over again until they get it, she said.
Tablets could be beneficial to a child’s development because of their interactive nature, Brown said. Traditional toys like blocks or crayons do not give feedback, for example, making tablets an “interesting potential for learning,” she added.
Despite the large amount of young tablet users, researchers do not know exactly what role such devices have on children’s development.
“Right now we don’t have many answers,” Brown said, “technology is exceeding science at this point.”
The matter is being studied, however, and the use of these devices has now been divided into passive or interactive media, she said.
When children only watch cartoons or movies on a tablet, it is passive. When children use apps which require them to tap images or draw, for example, it is interactive.
Although extensive research has not been done parents should discourage passive media, Brown said. According to the AAP this use of tables does not seem to have any beneficial results, she added.
Reeves, whose youngest child frequently uses tablets, agrees that the nonparticipant use of tablets can have negative effects on children.
“It’s an isolating activity,” she said, “it is not something that encourages interaction with others.”
Parents should instead use the devices with their children, Brown said. If children use tablets with no interaction for several hours they could have delayed language skills, she added.
Interactive media, on the other hand, can be educational, she said. Apps like “Playwords,” for example, use images and interactive letters to teach children how to read. The American Academy of Pediatrics, however, does not have specific advice on this type of media, Brown added.
Until extensive research is done on the use of tablets parents should set up some parameters of their own, Brown said.
As a parent of young children Reeves said she believes kids need to learn how to use tablets. Electronics will be an important part of their future as things like textbooks will probably be available in electronic form only, she added.
“It prepares them for their world,” she said, “their world is all about technology.”
– 600 words