For many parents, tablets and iPads are lifelines. They serve as a chance to keep children occupied while they get things done. Researchers now suggest tablet time could be unsafe for your child. 

Baylor University researchers say you might want to think twice about your child’s development before handing them the electronic device. 

“Anybody that has kids can understand that sometimes your kids will throw tantrums. And sometimes, yes, we absolutely will bring the tablet out or the iPad and give it to them just to calm them down,” says father Randall Pfaff.

Pfaff and his wife have a crazy schedule, both working jobs and with two young children. They say on occasion, they’ll do anything, even screen time, to have a moment of peace. 

“There’s gonna be times where it’s a really nice thing to have. Especially if you’re busy and hustling around trying to manage your family,” Pfaff said.

Recent research from the University of Toronto found every 30 minutes of screen time increased the risk of delayed speech by 49 percent. 

Baylor University researchers say while studies are limited, they agree.

“There’s not a whole lot of research yet on iPads and iPhones and child development, but we have a great deal of research from television. And we can draw from that and kind of make some connections between what was found in those studies and what might be found now with iPads,” says Baylor Clinical Associate Professor Tracey Sulak, of the Department of Educational Psychology. “They found that the more hours they watch TV, the more likely they were to have a language delay.”

Pfaff says he does make it a priority to limit his toddler’s iPad time. 

“We limit our usage to between 90 minutes and two hours a day,” Pfaff said. “It’s a combination of games, you know. We do limit the amount of videos and YouTube usage that we give our kids.”

The question is, how long should a child be spending on these devices?

“The American Academy of Pediatrics says for zero to 18 months, no screen time,” Sulak says. “Two to five, it’s about an hour a day that they suggest – and that should also be meditated with parents so they’re still having social interaction.”

Sulak says a lack of social interaction because of screen time is likely a big contributor to speech delays. 

“If we don’t interact with our children, if we don’t have those social interactions in the home, it’s really hard for children to develop those skills, in general,” Sulak explains. 

Sulak says throwing out iPads is not reasonable. She suggests finding alternatives to the devices. 

“You can go old-school. I would put a pan on the floor and give [my children] something to beat the pan with, and they would just beat the pan. And they thought that was the most wonderful thing in the world,” Sulak says. 

Pfaff admits his family could do better. 

“Absolutely! Any parent that says they couldn’t [do better], I don’t believe them. Yes, we could absolutely do a better job! Completely getting away from [tablets]? I don’t think it’s practical. But definitely limiting the usage? Absolutely,” Pfaff says. 

Sulak says there are some major red flags to look out for if your child is spending too much time on the tablet: 

– Tantrums while trying to take away your device. 

– When they reach for a device first, instead of playing with toys. 

– Many times a day, every day, they throw tantrums.

Sulak says making small changes like using your devices away from your children and encouraging other play with toys and friends of siblings can help. 

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