I’m pretty sure this falls into the category of “things I say I’ll never do as a parent because I’m not yet a parent,” but I plan to severely limit my child’s screen time. I hate the idea of my baby or toddler zoning out to my iPhone, iPad, or the TV. Can’t they just read a book? Or… um, talk to me?
Then again, my parents let me watch TV. I don’t remember them actively restricting my TV time, but I do remember playing outside frequently, as well as playing dress-up or other imagination-based games. I remember doing other activities more than watching TV.
Turns out that playing with an iPad actually different than watching TV. According to a professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts, Daniel Anderson, a young child looks away from a TV screen approximately 150 times an hour, mostly because they have trouble knowing where to look on the screen. On the other hand, a iPad holds a child’s attention more effectively because what happens on the screen is often related to where the child touches the screen.
There’s hope that playing with an iPad is good for a toddler – although research is limited, scientists hope that the attention-grabbing iPad can be used to help children learn. After all, most toddlers can’t use mouses or consoles but can easily navigate a touch-screen like an iPad. But, as mentioned, scientific research on whether educational games on the iPad actually help children learn is limited because such studies take years to conduct and the iPad is a relatively new product. Meanwhile, 39% of 2 – 4 year olds and 52% of 5 – 8 year olds have used an iPad, iPhone, or another touch-screen device to play games, watch videos, or use apps.
There are concerns, of course. Many parents worry that iPads and other technology will make their children more sedentary and unhealthy. Some scientists say that there is observational evidence that excessive TV-watching (and, by extension, iPad-playing) causes attention problems later on in life.
The effects – whether positive or negative – of even more screen-time on young brains is yet to be determined. I, for one, am hoping that my child isn’t part of the real-world experiment… just in case.