Cyber Babies: The impact of emerging technology on the developing child

Insights, advice, and recommendation for modern parents dealing with kids and technology.

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You wouldn’t let your 3 year old lick the doorknob to a public restroom because you KNOW s/he could ingest harmful bacteria and viruses. And you wouldn’t let that same 3 year old entertain him/herself with your smartphone while you wait for your food to be served at a restaurant because… well, wait, is that OK? This article provides recent research on interactive screen time’s effects on young, developing brains. Given the warp-speed neuronal network building as well as the warp-speed emergence of smartphones and tablets, parents need to know now more than ever what the latest research says about these devices’ effects on young children’s brains.

What Our Experts Are Saying

Insights, recommendations, and advice for parents balancing kids and technology from the doctors, subject matter experts and thought leaders in the Modern Parent Project community.


What to Do?

Direct, straightforward and summarized advice and recommendations.  Parents, please consider the following insights when navigating the challenging topic of kids and technology.


What NOT to Do?

The wrong words or actions can sometimes make things worse with kids.  Parents, please consider avoiding the following potential traps.

Take advantage of research to inform your decisions regarding early exposure to screen time

While most research on screen time’s effects on children has focused on television, recent studies that focus on interactive media are beginning to emerge. While we are still awaiting the kind of daily recommended allowance that has been established for foods, information such as that provided by this article can at least allow us to have an informed approach to managing screen time for our young children.

Share articles like this and discuss together

One decision that every modern parental unit makes involves agreeing at what age to allow young children to use interactive media. These decisions are best made with parental collaboration, including mutual input and consistent implementation. We sometimes see these decisions being made unilaterally or we see this issue create conflict within the coupleship. If this is an area of contention or confusion for you and your spouse that is not improving, a joint consultation with an MPP expert could help things along.

Don't fly solo

While it may be obvious to you what the restrictions/allowances around interactive media should be, it may not be so obvious to your spouse. We have seen many couples disagree in this area. Sometimes one parent thinks that a little screen time is ok or that exceptions should be made for educational media, while the other doesn’t feels strongly against any screen time exposure. It can be helpful to let go of right vs wrong and instead look to find common ground and work toward compromise or even an agreement to re-evaluate at a certain future time.

Don't worry that your young child will miss out on educational media

Many interactive apps and other products are marketed as educational resources for young children. While many of them may have merit, there is no research available that demonstrates opportunity cost when children do not use them. Old school methods of developing children’s cognitive skills are no less effective than the new interactive media-based methods.

Cyber Babies: The impact of emerging technology on the developing child

New research provides fresh data regarding interactive screen technology’s effects on young children’s brain development.

By Ciaran Haughton, Mary Aiken, Carly Cheevers (article)

Technology is now ubiquitous with almost 3.2 billion people of the world’s current population online (International Telecommunications Union, 2015). Whilst technology offers opportunities for education and entertainment, its impact on vulnerable populations such as the developing infant requires specific, careful consideration. Fourteen percent of infants (aged 6 to 23 months) watch at least two hours of media per day and one third of children under 3 have a television (TV) in their bedroom (Zimmerman, Christakis, & Meltzoff, 2007a). Twenty-five percent of

3-year-olds go online daily (Bernstein & Levine, 2011) and 28% of 3 to 4-year-olds now use tablet computers (Ofcom, 2014). Children are growing up with a digital foundation, they are interacting with and immersed in cyberspace where they learn, entertain themselves and play. During the first three years of life, the brain creates some 700 new neural connections every second. Synapse formation for key developmental functions such as hearing, language and cognition peak during this time, creating a critical foundation for higher-level functions

(Zero to Three, 2015). Very young children are becoming experts at using technology and are true digital natives.  Yet what long-term effects will this early exposure have from a developmental perspective? Researchers are now questioning how interactive media may affect children both mentally and physically (American Academy of Paediatrics, 2011; Radesky, Schumacher, & Zuckerman, 2014). Screen time research has traditionally focused on

the impact of TV on children (Linebarger & Walker, 2005). However, TV is a passive experience and results may not be applicable compared to highly interactive screen technology such as tablets and smartphones, thus the uniqueness of mobile technology needs to be considered. Experts in Canada, France, Australia, Japan, and South Korea have urged limits on children’s screen time and legislation has recently been introduced in Taiwan to limit children’s unhealthy use of electronic devices (Boseley, 2012; Locker, 2015; Tanimura, Okuma, & Kyoshima, 2007). Research and recommendations are urgently required regarding the impact of technology on infants and very young children, particularly as the effect of traditional and interactive screen time is potentially developmentally and cyberpsychologically significant in this age group

Cyber babies: The impact of emerging technology on the developing child.Psychology Research. (PDF Download Available). Available from:


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