Innovation and inspiration for modern parents.
Get inspiring ideas, parent hacks and tips about tech, life and your child's future.

Nearly there!

Just check your inbox for an email from with a link to complete your registration.

If you don't see it, please check your junk folder.

Can technology delay toddler development?

My 15 month old son just learned how to play a cartoon on the iPad, which both amazes me and makes me feel a little uneasy. I have been trying to limit his exposure to TV, the iPad and other technology and encourage other ways to play, but it is an easy distraction when I need to do something. I have read is several developmental books that TV, etc. prevents kids from developing observational skills. Is it really a legitimate concern?

Seeking Experience Child Development , Health & Wellbeing 3 years ago
Avivit Vita Fisher
Avivit Vita Fisher
A brand coach and strategist
New York, US

5 experts and 4 parents have answered

Holly Seddon admin
Holly Seddon Editor-in-chief of Kent, UK

This is a great question, and one I grappled with myself with my youngest (there were no iPads when my eldest children were toddlers).

This answer is one of anecdotal experience, rather than academic study, but for me, technology is just one strand in a rich set of experiences we can give our children. And the dramatic headlines are nothing more than an age-old moral panic.

Of course, too much of any one thing is likely to be a bad idea. So I'm entirely with you when it comes to limits and wanting to ensure observational skills are honed. Providing a child doesn't just sit with an iPad all day, but also goes for walks, plays with toys, chats/plays games with parents and other children, meets animals, plays in the bath, etc etc they will be getting plenty of stimulating experiences.

For me, it's not about the tool in the hand - whether it's the iPad or the TV remote - it's about the content being surfaced. I do let my son access some cartoons on the iPad - with restrictions - but he uses it far more for interactivity. I'd say he is the most interactive learner of all my kids, he gets very bored of passive experiences like TV and prefers to access apps, games and e-books. At his age (5) we can entirely control which apps, games and e-books, and can skew the content he accesses towards healthy and educational.

You may be interested in this Quibly question:

There is also some interesting content around screentime:

There is a great answer from Dr Dylan Arena, a learning scientist, here: which I think may bring some assurance too.

8 Reply Share:
Experience 3 years ago
expert answer
Martine Oglethorpe expert
Martine Oglethorpe Cyber safety Consultant AU
Parenting skills expert

There is no real evidence as yet to say that technology is having any real negative impact on our toddlers development (physically they may get bad posture, but not cognitively). Technology can be a wonderful tool for learning and development. The biggest difference between technology today and the arguments against too much TV from years gone by, is that todays technological devices are capable of far more interactive learning rather than just static learning, or watching. Parents can play games with their kids, they can read books together, do puzzles, colour in, sing along, make things move, match things, count things and get responses to their actions. This interactive element makes all the difference when it comes to the positive experiences of todays technology. Of course it needs to be balanced out with other experiences, their should be time limits and boundaries on what they are viewing etc, but on the whole I do not believe we will see any delays to our children's development through the use of technology.

5 Reply Share:
Opinion 3 years ago
expert answer
Valerie Thompson expert
Valerie Thompson Chief Executive Chertsey, GB
Education expert

Parents have been parking their children in front of a television set for years while they get on with their everyday tasks. In contrast a lot of computer technology that children can now access involves making things, being creative, getting feedback, interactivity, and engagement. In just the way you would check that what they were watching on TV was right for them, you would also check that the software they are using meets those same conditions, with the added bonus they are actively engaging with the learning resources rather than simply being entertained.

4 Reply Share:
Experience 3 years ago
expert answer
Jon Tarrant expert
Jon Tarrant E-Safety Manager for Schools JE

Although technology brings new ways of learning there are various bits of research that indicate;

  1. Students may remember less when they instantly access and use information (rather than reading, digesting and then rewording). This may disadvantage the "Google" generation.

  2. There are concerns about screen time... both the amount, its passive nature and the sort of content that may be viewed - and its behavioural effects.

For my own part, I've heard students complain that they find it really hard to hand-write examination essays because;

a) They are used to being able to draft and revise - or even just go back and insert paragraphs - when word-processing.

b) They don't have the physical stamina (their hands "hurt too much").

3 Reply Share:
Experience 3 years ago
expert answer
Bob Zenhausern expert
Bob Zenhausern CEO Enabling Support Foundation New York, US
Education expert

Our children are growing up in the 21st Century and that means they need to learn the tools of the 21st Century. Handwriting has done more to destroy a child's desire to write as someone said because "it hurts their hand". The proof of that is that writing something x number of times is used as a punishment. The point is creative writing not penmanship.

Too much empty TV is bad, but so is empty reading, empty "real" play. A while back the WISC a powerful intelligence test had to be revised upward because children were scoring "too high". It was "blamed" on children watching too much TV.

When information is easy to find people will seek more information. I would think they would remember more because the experience was more pleasant. Besides the information will always be available if it is not remembered. What the student needs to do is find information, not memorize it.

We take considerable time teaching our children to speak. If we taught them to read at the same time they will start school reading and, given the electronic devices, writing. In fact, a child will learn to understand the meaning of text before they can say it. Reading is more natural than speaking.

3 Reply Share:
Opinion 3 years ago
Marcin Maciejewski
Marcin Maciejewski Kraków, Poland

One of my biggest concern is that the statement might be true. However basing on my observation (my son - 3 years old/cousins and neighbors toddlers and preschoolers) I may only noticed a great boost in analytical and creative domain. There is in deed a serious scientific research needed in the subject. I have not seen any that deals with tablets (just TV) and I believe that the nature of this experience is totally different. If you know any studies please let me know!

2 Reply Share:
Experience 3 years ago

TV, especially kids TV, teaches children that life comes in very short, high energy bursts, where we all know thats not the case!

Just look at any kids TV program - lots of fast moving, constantly changing subjects from many different camera angles. The young brain simply can not cope which is why most young children "zone out" and stare blankly at the TV - Its not because they are enjoying it (many are too young to even understand it), it's because they are being bombarded with information at such an unnaturally high rate that their brains simply can not handle it. Meanwhile the sleep deprived new mothers assume their children are enjoying the TV shows and so use TV as a means to get some rest, whilst inadvertently damaging their children's developing brain.

Later in life, when these same children find themselves in a real-world situation where they need to concentrate on something for more than a few seconds they struggle as their brains have been programmed from an early age by the TV to expect the subject to change any time soon.

If you really must let your children watch TV, its better to let them watch slow paced tv shows, wildlife documentaries for example where the subject matter is constant, the pace is a normal calm talking speed, and views changes are less frequently.

Its a similar problem with games consoles and iPads. Kids get used to the idea that everything is available instantly. if they get bored of one game, they switch to the next instantly. Again, their young brains are learning that life comes in short bursts - instant gratification - no patience required.

Also computer games do not teach hand-eye coordination in the same way as playing with real world toys do.

Not to mention sitting for extended periods of time in the same position, one hand twisted underneath supporting the iPad's weight with the other hand poking the screen frantically with the head pointing down at the screen has an influence on muscular skeletal development in the neck, arms and upper body. Also, having the child's eyes focus fixed as the same distance for long periods of time looking at a bright screen is also totally unnatural, and cannot possible be good for the childs development.

In short, limit your child's exposure to TV and computer games, get them playing with real toys and moving about (preferably outside!), and keep them well away from any media designed for kids!!

1 Reply ( 2 ) Share:
Opinion 3 years ago
expert answer
Suzanne Freyjadis expert
Suzanne Freyjadis Consultant, Education Technology Austin, US
Technology expert

Studies show different answers to this question. However, children need to develop a full range of skills including the use of technology. Technology is a new tool we have and children are highly capable of adapting to new technology in the same way they are adept at learning languages. It is best to allow children, including toddlers to interact with technology and learn how to manipulate it and integrate it into their understanding of the world.

I do think that it's best to limit a toddlers access to screens not so much because of any damage their interaction can have but more because they need time to play with various toys and engage with their environment.

1 Reply Share:
Experience 3 years ago
Kate Pintor
Kate Pintor Mom, Tech, Outdoor Play Santa Rosa, US

As a parent, I celebrated the day my five month old son demonstrated in front of our friends his ability to change channels and adjust the volume on the TV. He's thirteen now, and helps troubleshoot our computer problems. He loves his screen. However, balancing exercise and screen time is something we have had to work hard to manage. That will never change though. This is the digital age. Slower fine and gross motor skills must be noticed and occupational therapies should be considered. We were able to accomplish that by creating an activity box, which did include technology, in the younger years. He also earned his blackbelt in TaeKwonDo and will begin wrestling for the middle school team. Finding an activity he wanted to do, and staying consistent with it helped. Then, tech can make it better.

0 Reply Share:
Experience 3 years ago

Did you find this article helpful? ×

yes no