Smartphones May Affect a Child’s Emotional Development

Researchers at Boston University School of Medicine released findings that conclude that the use of smartphones and tablets under the age of 30 months can be harmful in a child’s “social-emotional development.” Furthermore, the researchers speculate that the excessive use of the devices by children below three years of age could impair a child’s development of the skills needed for maths and science.

We see it everywhere, parents using their smartphones and iPads to pacify a toddler. But researchers are warning parents that using smart devices to divert a child’s attention could be detrimental. They’ve expressed concern over how pre-school children are caught up on the technology for long periods of time daily, and suggest that instead parents increase “direct human to human interaction.”

“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.

There is plenty of research that show how children under 30 months can learn as much from television and videos as they can from human interaction. But there isn’t sufficient research into whether interactive applications on mobile devices produce a similar result. As more kids spend more time on the devices, rather than playing and communicating with peers, some skills can be lost.

“These devices may 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,” explained Jenny Radesky, clinical instructor in developmental-behavioral pediatrics at BU School of Medicine.

Keeping your child quiet, playing on an iPad, may cause more harm than good. But more research is needed.


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Camila has been heavily active in South Florida’s tech startup community, where she is a co-host of a local radio show called pFunkcast. Camila previously worked at Greenpeace International and the Organization of the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in various communication roles. A proud Brazilian who spent most of he life in Peru, she is passionate about traveling and documentaries.
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