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09.03.2024

Saveta Dubak Tomović

Should Toddlers Use iPads/Tablets?

iPads and tablets are increasingly making their way into homes across the United States, serving as tools to enhance children’s engagement and learning. However, the question arises: Should iPads really be used for children under 5 years old? Are preschool-aged children sufficiently mature for this modern technology?

Today, it’s been 30 years since the World Wide Web began, 23 years since Google Search started, 18 years since the first social networking site began, 16 years since the first YouTube video, 14 years since the first touch-screen smartphone, 13 years since the first “app” store opened, and just over 10 years since the first iPad was sold. All these changes mean that the world of media where kids grow up is changing really fast.

Let’s look at the Benefits of iPads/Tablets for Toddlers:

iPads/tablets can keep children occupied: During travel or in environments unsuitable for them iPads/tablets can keep children occupied. They prove especially handy during long trips, making the journey smoother for parents. Whether it’s a late-night event or a lengthy wait at a restaurant, these devices help children enjoy the time, even in situations that aren’t ideal for them. Additionally, parents can also benefit from this arrangement, allowing them to better enjoy the event or outing.

Educational Games: Numerous applications provide enjoyable methods for toddlers to learn, aiding in the development of skills such as counting and alphabet recognition. Given the uniqueness of each child, their learning requirements vary. These apps aim to make learning enjoyable, even for areas where a child may face difficulties, such as speaking or counting.

Superior to iPhones: Due to its larger size, the iPad encourages better posture when used correctly and aids in eye comfort with its larger screen.

Disantantages of iPads/Tablets for Toddlers:

Writing Concerns: Certain experts express concerns that the use of touchscreens may not sufficiently prepare toddlers for traditional writing methods involving pens or pencils, as iPads are predominantly operated using fingers rather than a stylus. Additionally, it detracts from the time children would naturally spend painting and honing their motor skills, essential for writing preparation.

Increased Screen Time: Television remains the primary media outlet, with statistics indicating that children in America start watching TV as early as 9 months old. Introducing additional digital tools may lead toddlers to spend excessive time on screens, impacting their physical activity levels and social interactions. Instead of limiting screen time to just one hour of TV, it now extends to one hour of TV and one hour of iPad usage. This shift takes away time that could be spent outdoors being physically active, which leads us to the next point.

Outdoor Play Decrease: According to TreeHugger, numerous American toddlers spend less time outdoors than prisoners. This situation may exacerbate with the use of tablets, as children are incentivized to spend time outside only to be rewarded with iPad usage.

Eye Strain: Extended screen time at a young age could strain toddlers’ developing eyes, leading to potential vision problems.

Social Skills Impact: Screen time may impede the development of communication and social skills in toddlers. Even during playtime gatherings, children often engage in activities on the iPad together, diminishing opportunities for role-playing, imaginative thinking, and physical activity.

Addiction concerns: Studies have shown that prolonged use of digital devices can lead to addiction-like behaviors, with children experiencing withdrawal symptoms when separated from their screens. This addiction can manifest in various ways, from a child having breakdowns when denied access to their iPad. Such behaviors can have detrimental effects on mental health, academic performance, and overall well-being.

While iPads and tablets offer numerous benefits for toddlers, such as entertainment during travel, educational opportunities, and interactive learning experiences, it’s essential to consider the potential drawbacks, including writing challenges, excessive screen time, decreased outdoor play, eye strain, addiction concerns, and impacts on social skills development.

Finding a balance between technology use and other activities is crucial for promoting holistic development in young children.

Do you want your child to become more tech-savvy?

If this is your motivation for buying a tablet, rest assured that children who are developing at a typical rate will not fall behind if their exposure to screens is delayed. Today’s phones and tablets are so intuitive that even babies can quickly figure out how to navigate them.

We also want to highlight some concerning statistics we found:

  • Four out of five households with children own tablets.
  • Three-quarters of children have been given mobile devices by age 4, often using them unsupervised.
  • Many parents resort to mobile devices to placate toddlers in public or during household chores.
  • Seventy-three percent of 2 to 4-year-olds watch TV daily.

We advocate for delaying iPad/tablet use until children start using them in school, typically around 7 or 8 years old. Until then, we encourage parents to prioritize hands-on, interactive activities that promote physical, cognitive, and social development. 

We would love for parents to share their thoughts and experiences in the comments, fostering a dialogue about technology use in early childhood.


Sources

  1. https://www.ftc.gov/sites/default/files/documents/public_comments/california-00325%C2%A0/00325-82243.pdf
  2.  https://www.census.gov/library/stories/2023/04/tablets-more-common-in-households-with-children.html
  3. https://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/02/health/many-children-under-5-are-left-to-their-mobile-devices-survey-finds.html
  4. https://amp.theguardian.com/society/2018/feb/25/children-struggle-to-hold-pencils-due-to-too-much-tech-doctors-say
  5. https://www.treehugger.com/children-spend-less-time-outside-prison-inmates-4857353
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10057686/
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5769928/
  8. https://nhahealth.com/screen-dependency-disorder-the-effects-of-screen-time-addiction/
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10353947/
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