iPads hinder children’s muscles and bones from proper development

Screen material is not well designed for a child’s cognitive processes—this is attention grabbing, but does not help processing.

People from older generations always gripe that children these days are always glued to their tablets and Gameboys and mobile phones. And according to new studies, they may have a valid reason for their frustration.

Constant use of iPads and similar devices in young children in lieu of more traditional games undermines their bones and muscles’ ability to develop properly.

Comparing children ages three and four who played with conventional toys to other children who played with electronic devices, the study found that the latter group moved a lot less than the former.

Not only that, changes in their mental and social development were also discovered in the five-year study.

Physiotherapy professor Leon Straker, of Curtin University, in Perth, Western Australia said that those who used iPads moved their upper limbs and whole body less in a 15-minute period than when they played with toys, but more than when they watched TV.

On the other hand, children who played with toys moved six times as much when watching TV and three times as much when using an iPad.

They also moved their whole bodies twice as much when watching TV and three times as much when using an iPad.

“The results showed children playing with toys moved their upper limbs six times as much as when watching TV and three times as much as when using an iPad,” said professor Straker.

“One, they may spend more time sitting rather than running around and playing and miss the stimulus this provides to build strong muscles and bones and two, they may spend more time in a poor neck posture with little neck movement which may make them more vulnerable to neck pain."

“The good news is that these devices can be used in a variety of postures so may be less problematic than TV.”

Young children should spend only short periods of time, about 15 minutes, on touch screen devices, recommends Professor Straker. They should also spend no more than an hour a day in total on all electronic devices.

“Official guidelines used by the Australian Department of Health recommend children under the age of two years see no screens at all, and children aged between five and 17 limit screen time to less than two hours a day,” said a Daily Mail report.

The UK’s Department of Health doesn’t have set guidelines for the number of screen hours for children, but they do encourage parents to reduce time spent by children on iPads, TV screens, and games console.

One way of doing it is by arranging family activities such as walking, cycling, going to the park or playground, or swimming together.

Meanwhile, for professor Lynne Murray, a developmental psychology expert at the University of Reading, children under three shouldn’t use such devices at all.

“A lot of screen material is not well designed for a child’s cognitive processes, e.g loud, fast changing stimulation—this is attention grabbing, but does not help processing,” she said.

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