In a world of technological advancement, mobile devices are widely used by people of all ages, including children. Parents who have children with social and emotional difficulties are more likely to give an iPad to avoid tantrums, a new study found.

For some, it may be tempting to hand over mobile devices to a "difficult" child. According to a new study by researchers from the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital at the University of Michigan, parents from low-income families were more likely to give mobile devices to calm children with social and emotional difficulties.

Published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, the researchers recruited 144 healthy children between the ages of 15 and 36 months from low-income families. The researchers asked the parents how often they give or allow the use of mobile device during a variety of situations. Different scenarios include eating, being in public, during chores, when the children are in distress and at bedtime.

Parents Use Mobile Devices To Pacify Children

"We know that parents of babies and toddlers with difficult behavior disproportionately use television and videos as calming tools. We wanted to explore whether the same might be true for mobile technology like phones and tablets," said Dr. Jenny Radesky, study's lead author.

They found that parents were more likely to use mobile devices as a coping strategy to pacify children who are having tantrums to keep the peace at home. Notably, the researchers found no differences between children with social-emotional difficulties and other kids when it comes to mobile device use during other situations.

What This Could Mean

This shows that mobile technology plays a major role in family dynamics. The study does not, however, show that mobile technology is bad for children. They just want to let parents know how they use these devices and how long should they allow their kids to use them.

"My concern is more with when parents are using it as a 'let me hand this over to you and let this distract you from whatever distress you were just in,' because kids learn from handling their own distress not by being distracted from it," Radesky said.

Mobile Devices May Affect Children's Development

In another study by Radesky, they found that if parents hand over mobile devices like iPads and smartphones to children who are having tantrums, it may inflict developmental damage to the child. Though these devices may help kids learn a lot of things, these should not be used to pacify them.

Too much use of these devices at a very young age may interfere in important skills that kids should possess. Instead of developing empathy, problem solving skills and coping mechanisms, which are usually acquired through interactions with others, their heads are glued to computers, smartphones or iPads.

Typically, by 36 months, kids should be able to carry a conversation using a few sentences, play with friends, respond to the feelings of others, become comfortable with other people and might get upset with changes in routines. This is why tantrum bursts are common during this age.

Photo: Lexie Flickinger via Brad Flickinger | Flickr

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