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Tablets and smartphones may affect social and emotional development

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Scientists warns that using a tablet or smartphone to divert a child’s attention
could be detrimental to “internal mechanisms of self-regulation”

Researchers at Boston University School of Medicine found that use of
interactive screen time under 30 months could also impair a child’s
development of the skills needed for maths and science. Using a smartphone or iPad to engage them, can harm their ability to learn self-regulation.
The researchers said that though the adverse effects of television and
video on very small children was well understood, society’s
understanding of the impact of mobile devices on the pre-school brain
has been outpaced by how much children are already using them.
The researchers warned that using a tablet or smartphone to divert a
child’s attention could be detrimental to “their social-emotional
development”.
Use of interactive screen time below three years of age could also
impair a child’s development of the skills needed for maths and science,
they found, although they also said some studies suggested benefits to
toddlers’ use of mobile devices including in early literacy skills, or
better academic engagement in students with autism.
Jenny Radesky, clinical instructor in developmental-behavioural pediatrics at Boston
University School of Medicine, published her team’s findings. She suggested parents to enhance “direct human to human interaction” with their
offspring.

Radesky encouraged more family interaction in general and
suggested young children may benefit from “a designated family hour” of
quality time spent with relatives – without any television and mobile
devices being involved.

The researchers pointed out that while there is plenty of expert
evidence that children under 30 months cannot learn as well from
television and videos as they can from human interaction, there has been
insufficient investigation into whether interactive applications on
mobile devices produce a similar result.

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Radesky questioned whether the use of smartphones and tablets could
interfere with the ability to develop empathy and problem-solving skills
and elements of social interaction that are typically learned during
unstructured play and communication with peers.

Playing with building blocks may help a toddler more with early maths skills than interactive electronic gadgets, she said.

“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,” Radesky said. 

There is evidence that well-researched early-learning television
programmes and electronic books and
learn-to-read applications on mobile devices can help vocabulary and
reading comprehension, the team found, but only once children are much
closer to school age.

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