Give a kid a toy truck and odds are, he can keep himself busy for hours – at least, that used to be the idea. But as more and more mobile apps targeted toward children hit the market, it may not be the case anymore, and that shift in entertainment could have consequences.
"If children are exposed to too much screen time, research shows it can cause potential health problems, they might not develop their language correctly,” Gundersen Health Systems Wellness Specialist Jessica Boland said.
Mobile apps aren't just used for fun. Companies are increasingly releasing apps and advertising them as learning tools, though not everyone agrees. The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood recently filed a complaint against several mobile apps marketed as educational, including Fisher Price's "Laugh and Learn" iPad game.
The group argues that while the company claims its app can help kids learn, the target market - babies and toddlers - shouldn't be exposed to any electronic screen time, per the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines.
"Children under two are just developing their language skills, so it's best to develop those skiills by reading books, playing with blocks, using creative play options versus the screen time,” Boland said.
Local daycare centers are already implementing that advice.The La Crosse area's Childfirst Care Centers say they leave iPads and other electronics out of their learning curriculums.
“There’s so many other kids on site, why not have the be able to socially interact with peers and getting them ready and prepared for the school year, so we don't really feel like we neef to spend that much time on the screen time,” Childfirst Board President Tim Nielsen said.
The advocacy's group's complaint, filed with the Federal Trade Commission, is still pending, but if it's successful, it might not be time to throw out that toy truck just yet.