According to a study, young children should not play with cell phones and tablets, as they have a very negative effect on language development, motor skills and social skills.

A small child gets happy looking at colorful pictures, but then bursts into tears and immediately grabs a cell phone in his hand. It’s a comfortable idea, but inappropriate. Smartphones are not babysitters and if possible, young children should not play with a cell phone or tablet at all, because it can have a very negative effect on their development.

This is conclusively shown by a new study conducted in Japan, which examined the growth of 7097 children over a long period. It found that if children as young as one year old stared at a screen for one to four hours a day, by the age of two they were up to three times more likely to suffer developmental delays in the areas of communication, motor skills, problem solving and even personal and social skills.

Smartphones are not suitable for young children

Tablets and smartphones deprive children of the impetus needed to develop speech. “Children learn to speak when they are encouraged to do so, but when they are just looking at the screen, they often don’t have the opportunity to practice,” says Dr. John Hutton, professor of general and community pediatrics at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in the United States, who was not involved in the study.

Too much screen time can make children less likely to interact with peers and adults, which is important for their social development. This is because, according to Hutton, flesh-and-blood people are more complex than on a screen. The brain must go into overdrive to figure out how to interact with them.

On the other hand, young children, when using smartphones, often substitute for active play, exploration and creative thinking, which are crucial for cognitive development. They are also more likely to exercise less and are not able to train their motor skills.

What do experts recommend?

Young children do not need digital media for their development. Those under the age of two should not use smartphones at all. And those between the ages of three and six should spend no more than 30-60 minutes a day on it.

Hutton also explains that content that is supposedly age-appropriate for children is often not either. “One problem with some online content for children is that parents think it’s educational because it’s marketed as such and contains a lot of information about the alphabet, colors, numbers or animals that their children can see and hear,” says the pediatrician. “But what enhances learning is content that helps children apply their knowledge beyond memorization, so they can function in the real world, where things are more unpredictable and require more creativity and resilience,” he adds.

Creativity also comes from boredom

If whining children are handed a cell phone or tablet right away, it also takes away from an important step in their development, such as the ability to deal with discomfort.

“If you let them get bored for a second, they get a little uncomfortable, but then they say, ‘Well, I want to be more comfortable.’ And that’s how creativity comes about,” Hutton explains.

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