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Do iPads affect childrens behaviour?

The use of technology like iPads by young children has increased dramatically in recent years. This has led many parents and educators to question what impact screen time has on child development and behavior. In this article, we will examine the latest research on how iPad use affects children under 5 years old. We’ll look at studies on attention spans, learning, physical activity, sleep and more to understand the overall influence of iPads. Knowing the potential pros and cons can help parents make informed decisions about technology use in moderation.

Do iPads negatively impact attention span?

One commonly raised concern is that iPad use negatively impacts children’s ability to focus or diminishes their attention span. There are a few studies that point to some effects on attention, but the overall findings are mixed.

A 2018 study examined the impact of iPad use on the attention spans of preschool-aged children for one month. The researchers found that:

  • Children ages 3-5 years increased iPad use from an average of 4.1 to 8.0 hours per week over one month.
  • This increase in iPad use was associated with poorer performance on objective measures of attention span.
  • Teacher ratings of inattentive behavior also increased over the same time period.

However, the study had limitations like a small sample size of only 40 children. It also relied on parent surveys to measure iPad use, which may not have been completely accurate.

Other small studies have had similar findings, showing more parent-reported issues with focusing after increased iPad use. But larger scale, longitudinal research has not demonstrated a clear, causal relationship between tablet use and worse attention spans.

In fact, a 2019 study followed over 2,400 children for 2 years. It found no association between screen time at ages 1 and 3 and attention problems at age 5. The authors concluded that advice to limit screen time for attention difficulties is not supported by their data.

Overall, as a point in time yes, heavy iPad use can acutely impact a child’s ability to focus. But there is no conclusive evidence that moderate exposure to tablets permanently diminishes attention capacity. Larger, long-term studies simply do not show causation. In an increasingly digital world, learning to engage with technology while maintaining focus is an important skill.

Does iPad use negatively impact learning?

Another common question is whether iPad usage has a negative influence on early childhood learning and development. Some key research findings in this area include:

  • A meta-analysis of studies found that technology use was associated with some delays in language, literacy and cognitive development in children 0-3 years old. However, the authors acknowledge difficulty demonstrating causality.
  • Preschoolers using iPads have shown weaker gains in communication, literacy, math skills and socio-emotional development per 3 studies. But each study had limitations in how they measured or controlled iPad use.
  • One study found negative impacts on learning when iPads were used alone without adult engagement. However, moderate use with parental involvement did not appear detrimental.

Overall, research does not show definitive evidence that iPad use is inherently harmful for learning in young children. Key factors like the quality of content, whether use is passive or interactive, and if parents are involved matter significantly.

Educational experts generally recommend:

  • Co-viewing and discussing apps with children rather than solitary use
  • Choosing developmentally appropriate, educational content
  • Using iPads to reinforce learning, not replace activities like reading

Following guidelines like these can help ensure iPads are used constructively to support, not hinder, early learning.

Do iPads decrease physical activity in children?

Concerns around reduced physical activity and increased sedentary behavior are also frequently raised. So what does research suggest in this area?

  • Several studies show a modest but statistically significant association between greater screen time and less physical activity in preschool-aged children.
  • One study found that an extra 30 minutes of iPad use a day resulted in 15 less minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise among 3-5 year olds.
  • Displacing devices for more energetic play is believed to support healthy development.

However, iPads should likely not be singled out when it comes to activity levels. Overall screen time, including TV, computers and mobile devices, does appear linked to less exercise. But several factors are at play, requiring more research.

Additionally, interactive iPad games that involve movement, like jumping, dancing or yoga, can help children be active. Educational programs even design “digital play” to get kids up and moving. So content matters when it comes to the activity equation.

Moderating use, choosing energetic activities and taking movement breaks can allow children to enjoy iPads while still getting physical activity.

Do iPads interrupt sleep patterns in young kids?

Getting good sleep is critical for child development. Some research does connect screen time, including iPad use, to sleep disruptions:

  • Higher media use, especially near bedtime, is associated with inadequate sleep quantity in preschoolers.
  • Reduced sleep quality and issues like bedtime resistance are also linked to screen exposure based on parent surveys.
  • Light and mental stimulation from screens may adversely impact natural sleep cycles.

However, studies rely heavily on parent reported estimates, making it difficult to objectively quantify effects. As with attention and learning, many factors likely contribute to sleep issues beyond just screen exposure.

To minimize disruption, experts suggest:

  • No screens for 1-2 hours before a child’s bedtime.
  • No devices allowed in bedrooms overnight.
  • Turning on “Night Shift” mode to reduce sleep-disrupting blue light.

Following appropriate digital hygiene habits around sleep is recommended, although more research would be helpful.

Do iPads impact child development and health?

Beyond the aspects covered above, some broader child development and health concerns around iPad use include:

  • Speech delays – Some correlation found between higher technology use and expressive speech delays in young children. Interacting with people fosters verbal skills.
  • Obesity – Screen habits may contribute to childhood obesity, but direct causation is not established.
  • Aggression – Content matters. Violent media viewed on iPads could theoretically impact behavior but parenting is key.
  • Addiction – Cases of technology and gaming addiction are documented in older kids. Less research exists for young children.
  • Eyesight – No proven vision damage but eye strain can occur. Following good device habits helps.

Overall, research does not substantiate that iPads inherently threaten children’s development or health. But excessive, unmonitored use coupled with displacement of healthy activities could potentially impact areas like communication skills, obesity risk and behavioral issues. Ensuring tech aids rather than replaces parenting is advised.

Do child experts recommend iPads for kids under 5?

Many early childhood education experts suggest limited, supervised iPad use for kids under 5, avoiding it altogether for children under 2 years old. Key recommendations include:

  • No more than 1 hour per day of high-quality content with parent engagement.
  • Using alongside traditional activities and interactions to aid learning.
  • Replacing passive watching with interactive, educational apps.
  • No devices during meals, play time with others or 1-2 hours before bed.

Professional groups like the American Academy of Pediatrics advise establishing device-free zones and times in the home. But they recognize that technology is part of modern life so giving children controlled exposure helps teach balance and moderation.

Parental judgement on appropriate iPad use for an individual child’s temperament and regulation abilities is also recommended.


Research on the impacts of iPad use on young children demonstrates some potential risks but no conclusive harm across areas like attention, learning, activity levels and sleep. While excessive use can negatively impact specific aspects of development, moderate, monitored iPad exposure appears fine when balanced with healthy interactions and activities.

Key considerations for parents include:

  • Following child health organization screen time recommendations
  • Being involved in iPad use through co-playing, discussing content
  • Choosing high-quality, interactive educational apps
  • Using tablets to complement, not replace, other nurturing activities
  • Establishing tech-free times and zones
  • Modeling healthy device habits

With thoughtful use focused on engagement instead of passive watching, iPads can be responsibly incorporated into early childhood without significant concern. More long-term research would help clarify appropriate levels of use versus misuse. Overall, parents should consider their child’s needs and temperament to make the right decisions about if and how to integrate iPads into daily life.