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Tablets & Childhood Development – The Pros & Cons

Children are increasingly exposed to technology around the home and at school. One of the most common forms of technology used is the iPad; one of many touch screen tablet devices that have become so popular over recent years.

iPads and other tablets can be used for playing educational games, reading books, watching movies, communicating with friends, and much more. The touch screen interface opens up new and exciting ways for users to interact with the technology, and the tactile and intuitive nature of tablet devices enables toddlers and very young children to pick up a tablet and quickly feel comfortable using it.

However there is much debate about whether it is beneficial for young children to spend time on a tablet or not and a great deal of research has explored the pros and cons surrounding tablet usage and childhood development.

The Potential Benefits of Tablet Usage For Young Children

Most toddlers and young children are immediately drawn to tablet devices. They are shiny, colourful and potentially noisy devices that capture the attention of any curious child! Here are some of the benefits of allowing your child to play with a tablet:

Tablets can boost language skills

Research from 2010 found that children can make improvements to their vocabulary comprehension, letter-identification and rhyming from using educational tablet apps. Vocabulary improved as much as 31 percent from playing the game used in the study.

Tablets can boost mathematical ability
A study funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation found that mathematics apps are very effective at improving a young child’s mathematical ability.   It found that on average, a group of 5th-graders significantly improved their mathematical ability after playing a tablet-based mathematical game. The children improved their skill with mathematical fractions by 15% after playing the game for 20 minutes daily over a five-day period.

Tablets can increase learning enjoyment

The same study found that children gained more enjoyment from learning after playing mathematical games on a tablet. 95% of the children in the study said their friends would enjoy playing the game. If you have a child who is struggling with mathematics or another subject, tablet games could help them to gain some additional enjoyment from the subject.

Tablets can be better for children than television

A 2013 study published in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood found that playing educational games on tablets was better for children than watching television. Because educational games are interactive, they encourage the child to use more of their brain compared to when watching a television program.

Monitor your child’s educational progress

Many of the educational apps for tablets have integrated testing, which lets you know where your child is doing well and where they need help.

Tablets are portable and flexible
One key benefit of using a tablet is that you can constantly update the software to suit the age and educational requirements of your child. Tablets give you an infinitely expandable platform that can deliver hundreds of hours of fun and stimulation to your child.

The Potential Disadvantages of Tablet Usage For Young Children
Of course tablets can have their downsides as well! Here are some of the potential problems associated with tablet use.

Tablets do not encourage certain skills
Using a tablet is a highly stimulating activity for children. Whilst they are using one, they have no need to use their imagination or examine the environment around them and there is a tendency to become fixated on the screen. Researchers suspect that a fixation with the device can be detrimental to creativity and cognitive development.

Excessive tablet use encourages physical inactivity
In most cases, children will be sitting down while using their tablet. Too much physical inactivity can be detrimental to a child’s physical and mental development with an increased risk of the child becoming obese.

Tablets are not as good as human interaction
Nothing beats human interaction for creating emotional bonds and improving your child’s cognitive capabilities. Excessive tablet use may discourage your child from bonding with you emotionally. It may also slow some areas of cognitive development because they are not using all of their physical senses.

Tablets can interfere with sleep
Like all other electronic devices, too much time on a tablet can interfere with a child’s sleeping patterns. It is therefore important to limit use at nighttime and early in the mornings.

Tablets can be addictive
There is an extensive amount of research showing that computer games and television can be addictive. Researchers suspect the same is true of tablets. If your child uses tablets too often, they may become addicted to the stimulation that the tablet provides.

What Do The Experts Say?

The American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP) suggests that children younger than 2-years-old should not spend any time on a tablet, computer or television. After that age, they suggest no more than 2 hours per day.

The type of content you have on your tablet device is also critical. Is your child playing games or are they using age-appropriate educational content? If you allow your child to use a tablet device, make sure that the right kind of content is installed. Given the mixed opinions on the topic, it is best to be very careful with tablet usage, limiting the amount of time your child spends on the device and making sure that all content your child is exposed to is age appropriate.

June 15, 2016

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