Almost 5 years ago I have asked this question:

Is it too dangerous for my 2 years old son to watch YouTube on the iPad for hours?

and I concluded that (watching) TV etc is not very healthy for the children. However, years later social services informed me that they don't like my children to have access to technology in general.

What's the exact issue?

My boy uses the iPad/iPhone to play games. Most of these games are not evil - I assume - as they are developed by BBC and to my knowledge they are heavily regulated. Also I pushed him to use Tiggly Shapes Interactive Learning Games, which seems to be a good idea as it is a mix between the digital and real world.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Joe
    Commented Oct 10, 2019 at 14:10
  • Time spent on electronics is time not spent on something else. These other things are considered important too. Commented Aug 14, 2020 at 11:28

5 Answers 5


First, setting some baselines. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limited, but not zero, screen time for most children above 2. Under 2, and in particular under 18 months, no screen time other than video chat (Facetime/Skype/etc.).

For children younger than 18 months, avoid use of screen media other than video-chatting. Parents of children 18 to 24 months of age who want to introduce digital media should choose high-quality programming, and watch it with their children to help them understand what they're seeing.

For children over two, up to about 5, an hour a day is reasonable, so long as it is high quality programming. (What you describe would qualify as high-quality, I believe).

For children ages 2 to 5 years, limit screen use to 1 hour per day of high-quality programs. Parents should co-view media with children to help them understand what they are seeing and apply it to the world around them.

For children over six, there is no longer a blanket recommendation; the recommendation is to simply ensure screen time is not taking the place of other needs.

For children ages 6 and older, place consistent limits on the time spent using media, and the types of media, and make sure media does not take the place of adequate sleep, physical activity and other behaviors essential to health.

Many reasons exist to suggest limiting screen time. Adverse associations with sleep, attention spans, obesity, and language development in particular are called out.

Going into these in a bit more detail:

  • Obesity. Some of the connection with obesity is likely due to the connection between obesity and sleep. Eating during screen time is another. Advertising (and the connected social pressure) is also a related issue, though less so for non-television (or non-ad-based-tv) screen time of course. The linked study of studies above goes into more detail on this connection; it also emphasizes that screen time can sometimes be beneficial.

  • Sleep. The link between screen time and reduced sleep seems strong, but it's been very difficult to find a causal link. Theorized links include simply spending more time on screen that could have been spent on sleep; light from screens causing reductions in natural sleepiness; and decreases in physical activity relating to children not spending time outside as much. Of course, these are all pretty hard to test.

  • Attention spans. Very young children (<2 or <3) seem to have some correlation between reduced attention spans later in life and some kinds of programming. It's become more clear though that specifically educational programming likely does not have this connection. The linked study finds that below 3, non-educational programming is linked to reduced attention spans 5 years later, while at 4 or 5 years it is no longer linked to reduced attention spans later in life. It's not clear why this is present only at 3 or earlier.

  • Language development. Again, really only an issue very early on. Theorized reasons are largely based on the fact that younger children develop language from listening to adults speak (to and to each other), and screen time often replaces these interactions. Much of this language development happens in the first two years of life.

Beyond the research, which mostly focuses on younger children, the key is consistency and ensuring it does not interfere with other activities - in particular, entirely replacing active play. In these older children, obesity and sleep are still concerns, at least potential concerns. Ensuring children are not using screens to the exclusion of sleep, homework, chores, or active play is critical, and of course ensuring children develop their own internal controls beyond parental controls.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 12:40
  • Of curiosity, what is the connection between obesity and sleep?
    – tuskiomi
    Commented Oct 14, 2019 at 6:08
  • @tuskiomi Lack of sleep has a strong connection to obesity; I'm not sure the reasons for it are fully known, but there is a strong correlation. From what I've seen the most common reason is that people seem to be hungrier when they don't get enough sleep, but I'm not sure if that's actually proven or just hypothesized with some research agreeing with it.
    – Joe
    Commented Oct 14, 2019 at 15:16
  • @tuskiomi > sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120417080350.htm
    – Laurent S.
    Commented Nov 15, 2019 at 14:18

There is this German psychiatrist, Prof. Manfred Spitzer, who aggregates research with regards to children and digital device usage, and, inspired by the findings, has written a book of how, he claims, smart phone usage "makes children dumb" (by negatively impacting the developing brain).

His angle is basically that, during developmental phase (and he means even through puberty), that the brain needs the interaction with a normal environment to properly develop some of the basic cognitive capabilities. Letting children use digital devices with "unnatural" interfaces, and a high amount of repetition with things like swiping things off the screen etc, trains the brain, especially the forming brain, in improper ways, because the impact of these artificial presentations and ways to interact typically have a high impact, high weight, because it's done for hours and very often - compared to other types of activities.

Edit: Reacting to a comment encouraging me to add links to German texts pertaining to the subject matter.

Besides what I already mentioned, myopia by not properly developing eyes may also be an issue.

Here is a recent article by mentioned M.Spitzer, basically rebutting recent claims made in different (popular) science magazines about there being no problems with digital media/technology wrt their consumption/usage by children. In ~ the second half of the text he starts to give a lot of references to studies (in the first half he explains why one study presented in said magazines is shoddy science, according to him). The references he gives pertian to problems with speech development, concentration, learning, (learning of) social interaction. https://www.thieme-connect.com/products/ejournals/html/10.1055/a-0831-6084

Here is something similar, but a couple years older: Rebutting a meta analysis which claims "all hunky dory": https://econtent.hogrefe.com/doi/abs/10.1026/0033-3042/a000251?journalCode=pru

Here is an article by him about myopia due to disturbed normal eye (length) development by too much close-distance viewing (he also mentions how this relates to book reading, I havent read it thoroughly enough to be able comment). https://www.thieme-connect.com/products/ejournals/pdf/10.1055/s-0037-1616361.pdf

  • 11
    this is a forum with international access, but linking to resources even when they're in German wouldn't be a bad idea. If somebody's interest enough they will go to the trouble of translating them. As long as your answer is written in English, it's fine. Commented Oct 8, 2019 at 10:59
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    I thought the "sitting too close makes you nearsighted" thing had been disproven? webmd.com/eye-health/qa/… Basically the conclusion was that people who are already nearsighted sit closer because that's the only way they can see...not the other way around. Commented Oct 8, 2019 at 16:00
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 12:49
  • @Luaan - All comments made after being moved to chat are removed. You should have no trouble posting a comment to chat. Copy and try again. Thanks. Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 12:58
  • Wrt chat: ok, its message max length is smaller than these boxes' here.
    – sktpin
    Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 13:18

It's not that technology itself is bad for children, but, if not content-regulated, it can serve inappropriate content (think 4chan) and, if not time-regulated, it can take time away from learning other important skills. Technology can also serve up stuff that's...not so useful to a child's development, if not necessarily completely unsuitable (think video-game Let's Play videos).

Technology as a tool is great but all tools have their limitations. It can maybe help a child learn words or help a child's understanding of a skill, but it can't teach a child to interact with others, share toys, let a child actually practice said skills (outside of technology-related ones like coding), it can't get them to exercise, it can't provide interactivity beyond scripted events and prepared responses to touches/clicks, I could go on.

Content available on said technology is also very good at being flashy and drawing people in. Some of the best video games have what we call a 'one-more-go' factor, some of the best shows are good at delivering cliffhanger endings to conclude episodes, and a lot of content is designed around making the consumer want more. And kids are generally not very good at time management or prioritisation on their own, so time management needs to be enforced by the parent.

Finally, technology almost always puts the user in the driver seat regarding what gets done. It usually doesn't care if said user is a 4 year old; it will serve the same internet an 18 year old will see and the same content an 18 year old will have access to. There are some ways to enforce technical restrictions but no such system can be perfect and there will always be holes. There is no substitute for parental supervision.

  • 1
    Last year I went to an excellent hour-long lecture in English by Dr Spitzer that is available on youtube here: youtube.com/watch?v=4ZG1bPD-otE . In case you are wary to click on random youtube links, search for "The smartphone epidemic with Manfred Spitzer". People seeking to dive deeper into his research might find it useful.
    – Henya
    Commented Oct 8, 2019 at 12:27
  • 1
    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. @Luaan - Instead of arguing in comments, please post your own answer, as comments can be removed. Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 12:47

There is nothing inherently wrong about technology. We use it all the time, for all sorts of reason. Problems can come when interactions with technology (call it TV, Internet, or whatever) when they trigger something else, and children are particularly vulnerable against some of them, for instance:

  • Addiction: some people develop issues related to dependency and addiction, as technology often provides quick rewards for no effort.
  • Time: time is a limited ressource. The time we spent with our phones is time we don't spend doing something else that could be more valuable.
  • Social interactions: sometimes, "virtual" interactions replace actual face-to-face interactions, causing harm to our social skills.
  • Inappropriate content: your kid can learn from the Internet many things you probably don't want him to learn (or not yet, at least)
  • Physical dangers: exposure to screens can cause eyestrain, abuse of headphones can cause audition problems...

I won't cite any research here since you can find information on all of this subjects with a quick Google search, and also every person is different, so what can be harmful to the average human may or may not be so for your child. Pay attention to the specifics!

  • 2
    @Luaan - Instead of arguing in comments, please post your own answer, as comments can be removed. Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 12:30
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 12:32

Your question starts from an incorrect premise: You blame the technology.

The problem isn't the iPhone, or the TV, or the popular device of the day.

The problem is leaving little kids with the things unsupervised and unlimited.

Unsupervised means the parents aren't paying attention to the kids.

Unlimited means the kids sit and stare at the device for hours instead of being active.

Kids need attention to grow up to be good people.

Kids need activity to grow up to be fit (physically) people.

To be blunt:

The problem is parents ignoring their kids and letting them laze around getting fat by parking them in front of some cheap entertainment.

  • -1, too many assumptions
    – Ulkoma
    Commented Oct 10, 2019 at 15:08
  • 1
    This answer is right, but I don't think OP is blaming the technology itself, it's just asking whether it's bad or not, and in what way. I am right, @Ulkoma ?
    – David
    Commented Oct 10, 2019 at 15:13
  • @David correct. Also the answer blames me!
    – Ulkoma
    Commented Oct 10, 2019 at 15:15
  • @David: The question title is "Why is technology bad for children?" Looks to me like blaming the technology. And, since this is basically a repeat of a question by the same person from a couple of years ago, they haven't figured out yet where the problem is.
    – JRE
    Commented Oct 10, 2019 at 15:16
  • Does it blame you? Only if you do the things I said were wrong.
    – JRE
    Commented Oct 10, 2019 at 15:17

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