Global culture on the use of tablets and smartphones around children and toddlers is conflicted at best. On the one hand, tech-embracing parents forward that these gadgets are sources of educational material for their children. On the other hand, resistant parents dread the addictive qualities of small screens, which have generally exhibited an instant ability to appease a child in tantrums.
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Above all these pros and cons, further research is revealing other hazards of allowing children and toddlers excessive small screen time. A new study set to appear in The Journal of Pediatrics raised concerns about smartphone and tablet exposure encouraging habits that lead to obesity. The idea is not new. Television used to be the bête noir among many known aggravating factors of obesity. Until the mentioned study, mobile devices have been exempt from the scrutiny of correlation.
Other issues and questions are currently being resolved by further research, and it is common wonder nowadays whether there is a middle ground in introducing small screens to children and toddlers. Parents can now look forward to questions such as whether or not certain apps hinder cognitive development, or if small screen time disturbs sleep patterns.
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The positives are also given attention. Current research is also open to exploring apps and small screen functions fostering skills development. For now, it is safe to say that these gadgets do not pose inherent harms unless parents use these as an ersatz for human connection.
Dr. Jonathan Lauter is an accomplished psychiatrist based in New York. A fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, he currently serves as a clinician at the Refuah Health Center in Spring Valley, New York, and also runs a private practice in Manhattan. For more insights on child and adolescent psychology, visit this blog.