Friday, January 27, 2017

Electronic Media (EM) Toys: Love 'EM or Leave 'EM?

We live in a digital era. There is so much technology at our fingertips, from smart phones to tablets to the latest laptops. We now have watches that can tell you who is calling your phone and even let you search the internet. It is extremely amazing how technology has evolved.  Naturally, our children are being exposed to electronic media (EM) toys at an early age. Children as young as two years old can use an iPad, tablet, or other EM device.  But before you put that device in your child’s hands consider this: 

A study published in February 2016 by Dr. Anna V. Sosa, has found that these types of EM toys do not help children. She has found that playing with EM toys has actually decreased the quality and quantity of language when it is compared to playing with traditional toys or books. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, children spend up to seven hours a day using some sort of EM device. There have even been studies about Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD).

Internet addiction is real, and one can only wonder if we are contributing to that addiction by exposing our children to EM devices too early and by not limiting the use of the EM device. Therefore, we need to understand the dangers of EM devices and what type of exposure is appropriate for the child. According to Medline Plus, a child under two years of age should not have any screen time and children over two should be limited to one to two hours a day. 

An increase in screen time (time spent in front of a screen) can also raise your child’s risk of obesity, as it is a very sedentary lifestyle and no physical activity is being performed. Too much time spent alone without any interaction with other children may also impact the development of children’s social skills. EM devices are a valuable tool and can aid your child with homework, but limits must be established in order to lessen the risk of IAD and increase language development and social interactions.

The use of technology can be a great tool and asset if used properly and in moderation. Parents must take the initiative to engage their children in social activities and limit their use of EM devices. By taking your child to the library and letting them pick out a copy of a physical book you are helping them with social skills and language development. Don’t underestimate the power of reading. Read on, learn on and Behold Biology NSU! 

1.       Association of the Type of Toy Used During Play With the Quantity and Quality of Parent-Infant Communication. Sosa AV.  JAMA Pediatrics. 2016 Feb;170(2):132-7.
2.       Microstructure Abnormalities in Adolescents with Internet Addiction Disorder.  Yuan K, et al. PLoS ONE. 2011 June;6(6): e20708.
3.       Screen Time and Children. Medline Plus. Medical Encyclopedia.

Author: Aida D. Prybylski
Edited by: Aylin Marz, Ph.D.