Why You Shouldn't Hand an iPad to Your Toddler
Study finds that for children too young, mobile devices can harm
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 2, 2015 9:52 AM CST
In this photo taken Oct. 16, 2013, a girl plays Supercell's "Hay Day" game on an iPad.   (AP Photo/Lehtikuva, Milla Takala)

(Newser) – Tempted to hand your fussy toddler an iPad? You may want to think again: Research out of Boston University finds that, for children younger than 30 months, using smartphones and tablets for anything other than educational purposes can be "detrimental to ... social-emotional development," the Washington Post reports. At that age, kids learn best from "real-life interactions," the study published in the journal Pediatrics finds, and they need to learn empathy and problem-solving skills by playing with other children. The use of mobile devices instead can interfere with the acquisition of those skills. "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 study authors ask.

The researchers also note, per the Guardian, that for children under 3 years of age, "interactive screen time" can hurt their development of the skills they'll later use for math and science: "These devices may replace the hands-on activities important for the development of sensorimotor and visual-motor skills," such as playing with building blocks, the authors note. Allowing children to use mobile devices for educational, rather than "mindless" or "mundane" purposes, can be useful, but only when children are closer to school age, the Telegraph reports. When children are younger, such devices are most effective when used alongside adults, rather than simply as a means of distraction. (Of course, there can be practical benefits to your toddler knowing how to use your iPhone.)