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How do tablets affect your child’s development?

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Smart phones and iPads are in the hands of even the smallest children. Parent’s offer them to toddlers to keep them occupied. In today’s Mom’s the Word we talked about the impact of new technology on kids. Does it affect their development? Dr. Tovah Klein of Barnard College’s Center for Toddler Development and our contributor Dr. Lawrence Balter discussed what we need to know. Dr. Balter offers several suggestions.

As a psychologist, I know that brain development is influenced by events in the outside world. We can be certain that children’s involvement with screens will have an impact. At this time, however, we don’t have the scientific evidence to know precisely how. There are those who worry that kids who spend a lot of time on them will develop “attention” problems. The jury is out on that due to a lack of evidence. Besides, there is a considerable genetic component to such disorders. We don’t know how much or whether TV, videos, and/or other forms of screen activity plays a role. At any rate, the use and consumption of all such devices and technology requires good judgment.

Monitor Screen Time: I suggest that parents know what their kids are doing on their electronic devices and impose limits on the time they spend. For small children, it is important for brain development to play in the three-dimensional world.

Enforce Down Time: Children should not be tethered to iPads and other devices. I know adults who have them active 24/7 and even keep them by the bedside. Be firm about off-limits. Small children need to develop gross- and fine-motor skills outside of the virtual world.

Encourage “Alone” Time: It is essential that children learn to be alone for short periods of time. In addition, to learning to do things on their own, it provides an opportunity to daydream, use the imagination, and be in touch with oneself. In addition to games, parents can offer children apps that teach them to “code” and develop rudimentary skills in programming. This is a good way for children to learn while enjoying themselves. Children need to be conversant with new media, but they need to harness it and not become addicted. I strongly urge parents to use these devices prudently. Creating a balance among physical activity, educational games, and social media is the goal.