Screen time for kids is one of those topics that's sure to rile up get any group of parents. There are those who wouldn't dream of letting their little one touch an electronic device until they're older, and there are those who love seeing their whiz kid scroll through apps and navigate touch screens. If you're wondering how playing with iPads affects your kids later in life, however, you won't necessarily find one definitive answer to settle the debate.
In October 2016, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) actually updated its recommendations about screen time for babies and children. According to CNN, the AAP's previous guidelines were to limit screen time to no more than two hours a day for kids over 2. The new AAP guidelines, however, are much more nuanced — they include limiting screen time to video-chatting for babies under 18 months, watching any TV or screen time with toddlers between 18 and 24 months old to help them understand it, and capping screen time at an hour a day for kids between 2 and 5 years old. For kids older than that, the AAP noted that parents should be consistent about how much screen time is allowed, and make sure it's balanced with physical activities and a healthy lifestyle.
It's certainly a lot to take in, but having a good grasp of the guidelines could make your child more likely to absorb the benefits of screen time without suffering the drawbacks.
Here are some ways that using an iPad could affect your child, both positively and negatively.
1. It Could Hurt Their Language Skills
A May 2017 study found a link between screen time and speech delays, according to CNN. Researchers studied 900 toddlers and found that every 30 minute increase in screen time increased a child's risk of having a speech delay by nearly 50 percent. Although the study's lead researcher did tell CNN that her findings seemed to back up the new AAP guidelines, she also noted that a lot more research is needed on the topic.
2. It Could Lead To Poor Impulse Control
A study released by the Boston University School of Medicine in 2015 noted that parents might be leaning on devices like iPads and smartphones for kids as a "behavioral regulation tool." That means they're using them as a way to calm kids down when they're in the midst of tantrums or outbursts, which could prevent kids from learning how to control themselves.
3. It Could Damage Their Social Skills
The same study also noted that too much screen time could be interfering with children's social development. That's because too much time spent with an iPad or tablet mean less time for play and interaction with other kids and adults.
4. It Can Help Kids With Autism
iPads and tablets aren't always bad news for kids. The Autism Spectrum Disorder Foundation praises them as a great learning tool for children with autism, because they're usually much more visual and easier to use than other kinds of devices.
5. It Can Improve Their Schoolwork
More kids are using iPads in the classroom, and some teachers think they're fantastic for learning. One teacher told the BBC that her students have flourished thanks to the ability to give them instant feedback through their device.