How The iPad Affects A Toddler’s Core Thinking

How The iPad Affects A Toddler’s Core Thinking


It’s easy to take a thing like the internet (and for that matter – computers) for granted nowadays, I think. Although, without them, I probably wouldn’t have this job which I love so dearly.

In the same respect, the things our generation takes for granted now should be completely alien to those which are entering our world for the first time. Yet, they are not. Remarkably, toddlers as young as two and three-years are showing signs of instinctively knowing how to use some of this technology.

No manual. No instructions. Just an instinct.

This is remarkable — and it’s even more remarkable when you consider that magazines (and books) to a person born of the future will likely be those found on some form of digital display — an interactive experience where they themselves can get involved.

Although we don’t see it now, print media is on the way out, set to be replaced by something fundamentally different. An idea which is further powered by devices such as Apple’s iPad – and the many other tablet and mobile devices our lives today are now saturated with.

In a fascinating new report, The Wall Street Journal studies how devices such as the iPad affect a toddler’s brain. At first, this may seem slightly weird. At a fundamental level we’re all wired the same, right? — However, in order to understand how those coming into this world perceive such new offerings, brain analysis is perhaps the only close to “sure-fire” way this can be achieved.

The study found that more than half of all young children living in the United States alone have access to a tablet device — more specifically, the Apple iPad(which currently holds the majority share of the tablet market).

This was compared to that of the television, for which even more young children are said to be subjected to on a daily basis, yet these children were also found to “look away from a TV screen [roughly] 150 times an hour.”

Compare this to an application designed for iPad, Daniel Anderson, Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of Massachusetts says, and you get an entirely different engagement rate from the toddler.

In many ways, the average toddler using an iPad is a guinea pig. While the iPad went on sale two years ago, rigorous, scientific studies of how such a device affects the development of young children typically take three to five years.

The report does note, however, that there is “little research on the impact of technology like this on kids.” That said, because the toddler is still developing, devices such as the a mouse or phyiscal keyboard are considered more complex than the power of technologies such as the multi-touch display.

“Unfortunately a lot of the real-life experimentation is going to be done by parents who now have young kids,” says Glenda Revelle, associate professor of human development and family sciences at the University of Arkansas.

In this regard, parents who share devices such as the iPad with their toddlers at an earlier age – (for example, around ages 2,3 or 4), may find they are better engaged than if they were to share the technology with their toddler in later life.

The brain develops quickest during the first few years of a child’s life. At birth, the human brain has formed about 2,500 synapses—the connections that allow the brain to pass along signals—per brain cell. That number grows to about 15,000 per brain cell by age 3. In later years, the number decreases” the WSJ writes.

/ WSJ, TUAW