Mobile Devices May Interfere with Children’s Development

Since the introduction of mobile devices, their use has been spreading from adults to the younger generation. In the US and many other countries this development has on the one hand created an increase in device sales, especially for smartphones, but at the same time increased accessibility of such devices to small children.

The use of mobile devices by very small children under the age of 30 months, is the target of much debate in the medical community, particularly in understanding if such use can be detrimental to the development of children or not. In the past, much research went into the effects of too much TV on the development of children. The scientific community agrees, more or less, on the effects of TV but it is unclear if tablet and smartphone use have the same effect or differ significantly from this.


A recently released paper by the Boston University Medical Center paints a picture of the unknown. While some activities are supportive of learning abilities in children above three years, the effect is unclear for children under two years of age. The same researchers question if the use of mobile devices aimed at calming children may be detrimental to the social-emotional development of the child. They ask “If these devices become the predominant method to calm and distract young children, will they be able to develop their own internal mechanisms of self-regulation?”.

The authors also question if the heavy use of mobile devices will interfere with the development of empathy, social and problem solving skills. They state, “These devices also may replace the hands-on activities important for the development of sensorimotor and visual-motor skills, which are important for the learning and application of math and science”.

The paper indicates that, “At this time, there are more questions than answers when it comes to mobile media”. This may not have an impact on device sales in the near future, but could become a factor for future use by young children. It also raises a question about the development of children-specific tablets and smartphones. – Norbert Hildebrand