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Toddlers and Tablets

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With a few swipes, Dr. Julie Pace's son is playing his favorite computer game, on a tablet so intuitive, nobody had to show him how it works. Pace, a licensed psychologist and Assistant Professor in the Emory School of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, says she's seen the pull these gadgets sometimes have on her son.

She says, "Addictive is a little too strong. But I've seen him get to the point where taking it away is difficult. And that's what he asks for. Rather than, "Hey, Mommy, I want to play with my blocks." He can be, "Where's the iPad, I want to play on your phone! Where's your phone?"

Dr. Pace says that's a problem because children, especially young ones, learn through free-play, where there are no rules, no structure, and they fill in the blanks with their imagination.

She says, “I've seen my own son go into his room and pick up a block and make a block into a guitar. And start talking about, working out little worlds with these different toys. When you're interacting with a tablet, it's more structured, and you don't have that opportunity to create your own worlds, to think and develop, independence, self-regulation, problem solving skills.”

So, how young is too young for toying with tablets? The American Academy of Pediatrics says parents should wait until kids are about two, before giving them the gadgets. From two to kindergarten, limit them to an hour or two a day. She says, “A good rule of thumb is it's always easier to add more time in than to take time away. So, in general, I think limiting is a good idea.”

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