Parents who let their young children amused by digital devices may face behavioral problems in the future, new evidence suggests.
University of Michigan academics have found that using tablets and smartphones to keep 3- to 5-year-olds entertained increases their chances of developing mood disorders.
Senior author Dr Jenny Radesky said: “Using mobile devices to soothe young children appears to be a harmless temporary stress-reducing tool for families, but if it is a routine soothing strategy, there could be long-term consequences.
“Especially in early childhood, devices may replace opportunities to develop independence and alternative methods of self-regulation.”
During the study period, the team of researchers observed the daily lives of 422 parents and caregivers of children aged 3 to 5.
Each participant answered questions about how often they used digital devices as a parenting strategy to entertain their children.
Parents were also asked whether their children showed any signs of emotional distress.
Symptoms of mood disorders include anxiety, depression, perfectionism, high-conflict relationships, excessive substance use, high-risk sexual behavior, and high levels of shame and anger.
The results showed that young boys needed digital devices to calm down more than young girls.
In addition, the study reported that young boys were more likely to experience emotional dysregulation compared with young girls.
Dr Radesky said: “Our findings suggest that device use as a way of calming agitated children may be particularly problematic for those who are already struggling with emotional coping skills.
“If caregivers can quickly and effectively reduce children’s negative and challenging behaviors, they may be immediately relieved from using the device.”
She added: “It’s good for both parents and children, motivating them to maintain the cycle. Over time, as children’s need for media increases, so does the habit of using devices to manage difficult behaviors.” stronger.”
“The more the device was used, the less practical the children — and their parents — were to use other coping strategies,” she commented.
The study is available to read in full in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.