Do Tablets Cause Physical Or Developmental Damage To Toddler’s Social, Motor Skills And Eyes?

a year ago
This article was written by a member of the SheKnows Community. It has not been edited, vetted or reviewed by our editorial staff, and any opinions expressed herein are the writer’s own.


Play2Health kids art tools phone pencil paper tennis shoes

Today’s youth may very well be known as the “App Generation.”  They were born during the growth of apps and tablet technology.

According to a Nielsen Study, more than 70 percent of children under 12 use tablets. A recent journal Pediatrics study showed that:

  • 20% of 1-year-olds own a tablet.
  • 28% of 2-year-olds could navigate a mobile device without assistance.
  • 28% of parents said they use a mobile device to put their kids to sleep.

The use of tablets and smartphones among young children has simply become child’s play, with kids able to skillfully tap and swipe before they can walk or talk.

Tablet light and toddler’s eyes

Evidence shows intense blue light causes damage to the back of the eye, the retina and exposure in children could possibly lead to early onset macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness for those over 50, and to the earlier incidence of cataracts. Further information is located here:

Intense blue light causes damage to the back of the eye, the retina and exposure in children could possibly lead to early onset macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness for those over 50, and to the earlier incidence of cataracts

While we know that blue-light from tablets and smartphones can have long-term effects on our vision, it’s still too early to tell the extent of the damage. However, there are a few widely accepted tips that will help keep your kids’ eyes healthy until more information is available.

Play2Health child playing educational game phone

The risk is less for adult eyes that have a natural defense, as we age the lens starts to yellow, which then acts to block out some of the blue light.

As children’s eyes are still developing blue light is able to penetrate much more efficiently and directly into the retina.

Blue wavelengths are crucial during daylight, they boost our attention, reaction, and mood but are disastrous at night as they interfere with circadian rhythm and disrupt sleep.

Just about every digital screen, computer, tablet, and smartphone now uses Light Emitting Diode (LED) backlight because it produces brighter and more colorful images as well as being energy efficient. LED also emits more blue light directly into the eye than previous screen technology as Liquid Crystal Diode (LCD) technology.

The closer we hold the devices to our eyes, the more intense the light exposure, and the higher the risk of possible damage. This makes smartphones the worst offenders and television the least harmful.

A US study showed retina cells grown in a laboratory were completely destroyed when exposed to blue light.

Play2Health father with child swinging on swingset by lake

So how do you minimize the potential damage to young eyes from blue light?
  • Follow the 20-20-20 rule: put the tablet or cell phone down every 20 minutes, look into the distance for 20 seconds and blink 20 times.
  • Get kids outdoors. Reduce the risk of developing myopia from a lack of exercising long distance vision.
  • Exercise and a healthy diet, if it’s good for the body its good for the eyes.
  • Limit screen time to no more than one hour a day for young children.
  • Educate kids on the importance of blinking and taking frequent screen breaks.
  • Get annual eye check-ups until the age of 18.
  • Use a blue light blocking filter on your screens
Tablets and kids social-emotional development

Researchers with the Boston University School of Medicine have now weighed in on those questions in a new set of recommendations published in the journal Pediatrics. “Mobile devices are everywhere and children are using them more frequently at young ages,” Jenny Radesky, a clinical instructor at Boston University’s Developmental-Behavior Pediatrics, said in a statement. “The impact these mobile devices are having on the development and behavior of children is still relatively unknown.”

Nevertheless, the researchers have arrived a series of unsettling conclusions. They said children younger than 30 months “cannot learn from television and videos as they do from real-life interactions.” And to use a mobile device before that age on tasks that aren’t educational can be “detrimental to the social-emotional development of the child.”

Play2Health girl typing tablet in school

According to the study, tablet technology “could “interfere” with a child’s growing sense of empathy or problem-solving skills.

Kids acquire empathy and problem-solving skills by playing and interacting with peers and exploring their immediate surroundings

Kids acquire that capacity by playing and interacting with peers and exploring their immediate surroundings. 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?”

“It has been well-studied that increased television time decreases a child’s development of language and social skills,” Radesky said. “Mobile media use similarly replaces the amount of time spent engaging in direct human-human interaction.”

Tablets and fine motor skill development

Toddlers who use tablets or smartphones may develop long-term problems with their hands and fingers, experts warn:

  • When children use touchscreens they are not building up muscles needed for writing – which means they suffer from decreased muscle strength
  • As touchscreens are relatively new, no one knows what the long-term health consequences will be

Also, these kids face a ‘healthcare time bomb’ of neck and back pain linked to the use of computers, video games and smartphones.

The research showed nearly three-quarters of primary school children, and two-thirds of secondary school students, have reported back or neck pain within the last year.

Today’s modern lifestyles and the increase in technology are having detrimental effects on musculoskeletal health and, if not addressed, will have far reaching effects for our children, the future working generation and society.

The Rise of the Sedentary Lifestyle

As it is, the overuse of technology and lack of active and free play is limiting kids physical activity, the rise in screen time has led to the rise of a sedentary lifestyle for kids. In 1982, the childhood obesity prevalence in the United States was actually less than 4%. By 2004, that number had grown to about 30%.

For your kid’s health, put down the tablet and go play!


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parenting tech health

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