The iPad has only been around only since 2010, so there hasn't been enough time to observe its long-term effects on kids, according to Michael Rich, director of the Center on Media and Child Health at Children's Hospital in Boston.
Rich, who runs the online advice column Ask the Mediatrician, says that apps on iPads and smartphones are limited as teaching tools since they typically focus on one type of learning — "skills and drills," which teach children to correctly identify the ABCs or to moo when they see a cow on the screen.
"What's more important at this age is learning how to learn rather than mimicking something," Rich says.
Moreover, studies show that kids don't learn anything substantial, such as language, from screens — television, iPads, computers — until 30 months of age. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents hold off on any form of screen time until their children are 2.
A 2004 study in the journal Pediatrics showed that children exposed to television at ages 1 and 3 had decreased attention spans at age 7. It's a bit of a chicken-and-egg question, though.
"You can see how a kid who already has difficulty paying attention is put in front of the television to chill him out," Rich says. "It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy."
Image: Toddler using tablet, via Shutterstock