Too much phone, tablet use may gimp kids' development

Back in the days, our folks would tell us that watching TV would turn us into brainless zombies. Today, that might have some truth as well when it comes to heavy use of mobile devices. Boston University Medical Center researchers are now questioning the effects that these devices have, especially on children below 2 years of age, theorizing that a heavy dose of mobile could, in fact, be detrimental to social, emotional, and even mental skills that can only be learned through human-human interaction.

Of course there have been studies about the effects of smartphone and tablet use, both the good and the bad, but most, if not all, of those focus on children more than 30 months old. In some cases, there have been benefits to that use, like in learning skills for reading and comprehension, but those benefits only come in pre-school age or older. In other cases, like with television and videos, children are not able to learn things that can only be experienced through direct real-life interactions.

That might just be the same case even for those younger toddlers. In fact, the degree of developmental loss might even be bigger, considering it is at this stage that a child learns more from hands-on and face-to-face interaction. The educational benefits are pretty much overshadowed by the decrease in the development in all other areas, particular the emotional and social aspects of a child's development process. These, in particular, are hard to replicate in a purely virtual environment.

Mobile devices are also commonly used as a convenient tool to distract or pacify a toddler. The researchers question the wisdom of this parental tactic. The theory is that, when resorting simply to electronic devices, the development of the child's own self-regulation training is stunted. At worst, by exposing a child too much to a touchscreen-only interaction, he or she might not develop the proper sensorimotor and visual-motor skills that children usually form through more hands-on real-life experiences.

Of course, it is already questionable whether children below 2 years old should already be exposed too much to these devices in the first place. And parents who continually resort to such smartphone and tablets to distract a child should probably not be too surprised if the kid grows up with social or emotional problems. Of course, more scientific studies are needed to make an even more convincing argument, but in many cases, a tinge of common sense might go a long way.

VIA: University Herald