Don't Use Smartphones as 'Digital Pacifiers' for Kids
If you're a parent that gives his toddler a smartphone to play with to keep him quiet, you'd better rethink your strategy.
New research has shown that regularly exposing a toddler or a child under 30 months to video and interactive media on smartphones and other digital devices could impair that child's development of the skills needed for math and science.
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Researchers Boston University School of Medicine warned that using a tablet or smartphone to divert a child's attention might also be detrimental to "their social-emotional development". Toddler years are a time of great cognitive, emotional and social development.
"If these devices become the predominant method to calm and distract young children, will they be able to develop their own internal mechanisms of self-regulation?" the scientists asked in a study published in the journal Pediatrics.
Researchers also brought up "important questions regarding their use as educational tools". They noted society's understanding of the impact of mobile devices on the pre-school brain has been overtaken by the fact children already use them.
Instead of using smartphones and tablets as digital pacifiers, researchers suggest parents increase "direct human to human interaction" with their children.
They encouraged more "unplugged" family interaction and said young children might benefit from "a designated family hour" of quality time spent with relatives but without any mobile devices and TV being involved.
Playing with building blocks may help a toddler more with early math skills than interactive electronic gadgets, said Jenny Radesky, clinical instructor in developmental-behavioral pediatrics at Boston University School of Medicine.
Radesky believes using smartphones and tablets might interfere with a toddler's ability to develop empathy and problem-solving skills and elements of social interaction typically learned during unstructured play and communication with peers.
She cautioned digital devices might replace the hands-on activities important for the development of "sensorimotor and visual-motor skills, which are important for the learning and application of maths and science".