BY CASSIE SHORTSLEEVE, MAY
The pacifier just went digital: Parents are passing off tablets to kids as young
as 6 months old and using the gadgets to put children to bed, keep them calm,
and entertain them, finds a new study from the Einstein Healthcare Network.
Doctors found about half of the kids in the study under 1 year old had watched
TV on a mobile device.
In addition, 36 percent had spent time scrolling down a screen, 15 percent used
applications, and 12 percent played games.
Guilty? Experts can’t yet say what’s definitively good or bad when it comes to
youngsters on these devices. But as of now, there are no proven benefits to very
young children using such products, says study author Hilda Kabali, M.D.
“Mobile devices are ubiquitous and are used as the modern ‘screen,’” Dr. Kabali
In this sense, scientists and doctors can speculate that these gadgets may have
the same negative effects on children as traditional TV, like delays in language
development, increased sedentary behaviors, and nearsightedness, she says.
In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that kids under 2 should
steer clear of TV and other entertainment media.
Per the organization’s website, “a child’s brain develops rapidly during these
first years, and young children learn best by interacting with other people—not
Here’s why you might want to keep your favorite tech toy out of your tykes’
Could Raise a Quiet Kid
A recent study in the journal Infant
Behavior and Developmentfound that viewing TV increased the risk of delayed
cognitive, motor, and language development in children under 2.
And the more time glued to the tech, the worse the problems. Researchers suspect
that as kids become absorbed in a device, parents zone out, and thus your
detachment plays a role in their lack of development.
instead: Have one-on-one conversations instead of letting the tablet do the
talking. Chat your child up or read bedtime stories as if he or she can respond.
The longer and the more realistic the sentences, the better for baby brainpower,
finds a study from Stanford University.
Baby Could Be Lazy
Some research suggests that becoming sucked into devices can lead your brain to
release the chemical dopamine. Dopamine is released when you’re seeing something
intriguing, and it can also signal reward.
But building a tech habit from a young age could lead kids to seek reward from
such devices, meaning they spend less time with other kids and more time on the
Sedentary behaviors also displace other activities, Dr. Kabali says, which is
why viewing habits tend to be linked to obesity rates.
Kindergarteners who watch even an hour of TV a day are at an increased risk of
obesity, according to a recent study from the University of Virginia.
instead: Build a better habit they’ll learn to love by packing the car and
getting away from the TV.
Five days of face-to-face interactions outdoors at a camp (with no screens
around) boosted kids’ recognition of non-verbal emotional cues, found a study in
the journal Computers
in Human Behavior found.
Might Make a Bully
Fussy babies watch more TV, according to a 2014 study inPediatrics.
That could be because tech devices can mess with sleep, researchers say.
But other studies show that an increased amount of screen time as your baby
grows is correlated with behavioral problems down the line as well.
instead: Play with your kid in
real life—starting from day one.
That sounds simple, but here’s why it matters: Kids whose dads are more
positively engaged with them at 3 months have fewer behavioral problems at 12
months, per a University of Oxford study.
Need to Find a Better Vision Plan
Nearsightedness rates are growing all over the world—including the U.S.—at
alarming rates. And while eyesight has a lot to do with genes, some experts
believe that tablet use and poor vision are intricately linked.
This could be due to how close children hold devices to their faces, and also a
damaging level of engagement on developing eyes.
instead: Get the heck outside!
One Australian study found that the less time young children spent outdoors, the
more likely they were to become nearsighted.
Scientists aren’t sure why, but some think that UV light could be protective to
your eyes—especially young, developing eyes.