Concerns grow over children using tablet computers

A Brazilian boy looks at an iPad
A Brazilian boy looks at an iPad at an Apple store in Sao Paulo in 2011. Electronic tablets like the iPad are a revolutionary educational tool and are becoming part of childhood, but should be watched carefully so that overuse doesn't lead to learning or behavioral problems, experts say.

Electronic tablets like the iPad are a revolutionary educational tool and are becoming part of childhood, but should be watched carefully so that overuse doesn't lead to learning or behavioral problems, experts say.

"It's a topic that really emerged in the last two years. You can't pull it from their hands," Warren Buckleitner, editor of Children's Technology Review, said this week at a New York panel titled "Baby Brains and Video Games."

According to a late 2011 survey of 2,200 parents and children in Britain and the United States, 15 percent of kids between three and eight had used their parents' iPad. Nine percent had their own iPad, while 20 percent had their own iPod.

The same study, by the marketing agency Kids Industries, found 77 percent of parents believed that using tablets was beneficial for their children and the same number thought the gadgets helped develop creativity.

Amid warnings from some researchers that tablets can cause and problems including autism or , experts at the forum recommended not rushing to judgment.

"Technology maybe fosters some things and dampens others," Rosemarie Truglio, from the children's TV producers Sesame Workshop, said. "It's definitely about balance."

Lisa Guernsey, director of the Early Education Initiative at the New American Foundation, said that critics blaming devices like the iPad for child developmental problems should differentiate "between a cause and an association."

Still, Guernsey, author of ": How -- From Baby Videos to -- Affects Your Young Child," urged parents to establish limits on use of .

"Can they focus on a conversation, not look a screen for 30 minutes?" she asked.

Truglio noted that "researchers have proven they need adult-child interaction," in addition to the electronic helper. "Interactive doesn't mean educational," she said.

Annie Murphy Paul, author of "How the Nine Months Before Birth Shape the Rest of Our Lives," said there's no need to panic.

"Your brain is changing all the time, each time you learn something new," she said.

But Paul said she strictly controls her own offspring's access to such devices and remains concerned "about the value" for small children.

For Buckleitner, it's all a question of balance. Don't let the become an electronic babysitter. But it can be "a shelf of toys. It could be a lot things," she said. "Trust your gut."

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Mar 29, 2012
This article is a horrible fail. "Amid warnings from some researchers" is the only sentence that indicates there are concerns. Who are these researchers? What actually did their research show? Or is this just some "experts" of questionable credentials talking out their rear end. I didn't know we understood autism even close enough to attribute causes. I think Mariono is looking to work for Fox news. This is about their quality of reporting.

Mar 29, 2012
I think the key here is that any knowledge or technology requires context.

Human beings pretty much had nothing but wooden plows and sundials for thousands of years before metals were discovered and used to make better and better tools.

Then it went all the way to around the 1000's a.d. before gunpowder and anything resembling modern knowledge of chemistry was discovered and in wide use.

Now, in the past 150 years, we went from pony express, to landing on the Moon and holding a super computer in your hand.

Individual brains require context and fundamental building blocks to truly digest and use all these things properly.

If things like physical art or paper books or other traditional communication or media were to become totally obsolete and unused due to these new technologies, it could produce a continuity of technology issue for future generations following disaster such as war or solar storms.

Mar 30, 2012
Aah, we'll get by. Maybe decimated, maybe diseased, but it's hard to kill all of us. A few survivalists will be around in the hills. Now, civilization, not so much.

And technology will consist of bows and arrows.

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