Tablets and smartphones are great gadgets for making kids busy and quiet, especially for harassed parents who has more urgent things to do than attending to their kids. They can also be a great bribery tool. Parents use it to make kids behave, sit quietly in a car ride, get into a stroller, or even go into the potty. But there are some parenting experts who say that using screen time as bribery or enticements may have trade-offs.
Parenting gurus, psychologists and even advice columnists are wary about the effects of iPads, iPhones, Androids and other gadgets with touchscreen on children under 3 who use them. They believe that screen time may have a negative effect on children’s developing brain.
But the tendency to be alarmist usually happens when a new form of media becomes popular with children. When video games came out, pundits are afraid that these might make kids violent, and TV was once blamed for harming kids’ visions. But are worries about touchscreens warranted? What could possibly be the bad effects of young children playing with tablets and smartphones? Or does it actually have benefits, contrary to the conventional wisdom of the experts?
Because tablets and smartphones are still new, pediatric research still do not have a lot of data to make a clear and consistent stand on the issue. Although many studies suggest that there may be a link between screen time and children’s brains, it is still “premature” to say that there is a direct effect. Still, the “red flags” cannot be ignored – although we have to keep in mind that huge risks can sometimes be balanced by huge rewards.
(Note that some experts combine watching TV with interactive smartphone and tablet play as screen time. They are different, as watching TV is a much more passive activity than playing with touch screens.)