Gadgets like smartphones and tablets do a great job at making children busy, which is beneficial to parents who have important things to do. However, some parenting experts are wary about the effects of these touchscreen devices on children, especially younger kids under 3 who use them. They say that too much screen time may cause negative effects on kids’ brain development. For this reason, many parents are concerned and unsure whether to introduce these touchscreens to their young children.
Since these gadgets are still new, pediatric research hasn’t fully made a clear stand on this issue. So far, here are the pros and cons of touchscreen use in children.
Pros of Using Smartphones and Tablets
- Touchscreen devices are tools to improve kids’ aptitude for technology, which is an essential skill they can use in the future. That is why it is reasonable for kids to use these devices at an early age.
- Gadgets provide an opportunity for kids to learn in a fun way. Most children’s apps like the ABC Baby Guide Book, for example, have impressive and fun visuals on the iPad that your child will likely enjoy.
- If you are involved in your child’s use of gadgets, it will foster his/her cognitive and social development. It’s also important that you watch and talk about what he/she is doing or seeing on the device.
- Smartphones and tablets improve your kid’s hand-eye coordination. As your child taps icons or images on the device, he/she will see visually appealing effects, in turn, entertaining and encouraging him/her more to touch the device. This will make him/her proficient in touching virtual objects on the gadget, ending up developing his/her hand-eye coordination. This skill is essential in sports and for completing simple day-to-day activities.
Cons of Using Smartphones and Tablets
- Due to the high levels of blue light emitted by touchscreen devices, kids who sleep near these gadgets every night have 20.6 fewer minutes of sleep. This is because blue light decreases melatonin levels which are essential for stabilizing circadian rhythm. Prolonged exposure to blue light at night may cause children’s body clocks to reset, making it difficult for them to sleep. This leads to not having enough sleep and rest.
- UCLA’s Children Digital Media Center conducted a study in 2014, suggesting that prolonged and frequent use of touchscreen devices may negatively affect children’s social skills. Not to mention, it limits their understanding of other people’s emotions. For this reason, it’s best that parents should moderate their child’s screen time so they can do other activities like playing with other kids. This can improve their social and emotional intelligence, essential for their success in real life.
- Young children should not get all of the stimulations from smartphones and tablets; they should also be active physically. Spending too much time on touchscreens takes every opportunity for physical activity. Fortunately, parents can provide such opportunities for physical play by limiting screen time and allowing them to explore their environment. This can improve their child’s fine and gross motor skills as well as hand-eye coordination.
- According to a study in 2013, kids age 3 to 5 who read through electronic books with their parents had lower reading comprehension than children whose parents used traditional books. One of the reasons why was that both parents and kids were distracted by the bells and whistles of the gadget, preventing them from focusing on the story.
Screen Time Guidelines for Children Using Smartphones and Tablets
To alleviate the negative effects of touchscreens and maximize their benefits, here are some points to keep in mind regarding your kid’s use of interactive screen time. Following these tips will instill a healthy tech usage for them.
- Limit your child’s screen time if possible so that he/she can do other activities like reading or actively playing with other kids.
- If your child sees you spending too much time on your phone or tablet, he/she will most likely do the same thing. This is because kids tend to emulate their parents’ behavior. Make sure to prioritize your child over your gadgets by having constant communication and spending more time with him/her.
- Introduce rules for using gadgets and make sure your child adheres to them. For instance, if he/she does forty-five minutes of reading or playing sports, then he/she can exchange it for forty-five minutes of screen time. You can be more generous to your child during weekends.
- If present, make use of the built-in parental controls on your child’s device. It’s best to set it high at first, so if your child wants it adjusted, then he/she will go to you. This is the perfect time for you and your child to talk about what are the things he/she’s doing online.
Smartphone and tablet screen time does have its pros and cons on children’s brain and body development. Although its negative effects are something parents should be alarmed about, they should not discount the benefits it can provide to their children. At the end of the day, moderation and balance will straighten things out and maximize the benefits.
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