News | Published April 30, 2014

Are iPads OK for babies?

The use of screens with children is controversial. While the American Academy of Pediatrics discourages TV-viewing for those under age two, the pediatrician who helped to author those guidelines, written three years ago, recently authored a piece in JAMA Pediatrics suggesting that iPads and other tablets that engage a baby may be as mentally stimulating as toys.

There is no doubt that tablets can be educational. Studies have shown that apps have helped to improve reading and math skills. In fact, a recent study of the use of a PBS app by 3- to 7-year-olds showed that the app helped to boost the children’s vocabularies by as much as 31 percent. Another study of 3-year-olds showed a 17 percent gain in their vocabulary. There is also evidence that apps have helped to boost language use and social interaction in children with cognitive delays.

Although interactive games on a tablet are very different than passive TV-viewing, the latter which could have possible detrimental effects on cognition or be overstimulating and potentially harmful, caution should still be exercised with the use of tablets in children under two and TV should still be avoided entirely. However, 30-60 minutes a day of interactive screen time on a tablet may actually be beneficial.